Patient and Family Engagement in Primary Care

Research shows that when patients are engaged in their health care, it can lead to measurable improvements in safety and quality. To promote stronger engagement, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is developing a guide to help patients, families, and health professionals in primary care settings work together as partners to promote improvements in care.


The Guide to Improving Patient Safety in Primary Care Settings by Engaging Patients and Families is a compilation of evidence-based best practices for improving patient safety through patient, family, and caregiver engagement. This comprehensive guide provides primary care practices with four strategies that they can adopt to improve patient safety. A practice may choose to adopt one or all of the strategies. The four strategies and the materials to support adoption of each are:


Teach-back is a technique for health care providers to ensure that they have explained medical information clearly so that patients and their families understand what is communicated to them. This intervention includes several materials to support adoption:

Additional AHRQ resources on Teach-Back include:

Be Prepared To Be Engaged

This toolkit will help patients and their families prepare for and become more fully engaged in their medical appointments—to be ready for the appointment, to speak up, to ask questions, to take notes. Tools are also available for clinicians and practice staff to encourage and reinforce patient preparation and engagement.

Additional AHRQ resources include:

Medication Management

Medication management is a strategy for engaging with patients and caregivers to create a complete and accurate medication list using the brown bag method. A complete and accurate medication list is the foundation for addressing medication reconciliation and medication management issues. These tools will also help to identify risks for an adverse drug event, such as overdosing, underdosing, or missing medications, or other important contextual factors limiting adherence.

Warm Handoff

A warm handoff is a transfer of care from one clinician to another, where the handoff occurs in front of the patient and family. This transparent handoff of care allows patients and families to hear what is said between clinicians and engages patients and families in communication, giving them the opportunity to clarify or correct information they provided or ask questions about their care.

More Information

Additional implementation and evaluation guidance will be provided with the final release of the Guide in early 2018.

To be notified when interventions are released, please join our distribution list.

Page last reviewed March 2017
Page originally created October 2016
Internet Citation: Patient and Family Engagement in Primary Care. Content last reviewed March 2017. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.