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. The strategies have pair-tools for clinicians, practice staff, and patients and their families. 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: 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.

Be Prepared To Be Engaged: a toolkit to 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.

Medication Management: 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 transfer of care between two members of the health care team, 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 and engages patients and families in communication, giving them the opportunity to clarify or correct information or ask questions about their care.

Webinar Series

AHRQ sponsored a series of webinars about the interventions and has made recordings available.

Resources for Advanced Practices

For those practices actively engaging patients and families, but looking to further strengthen engagement, the Resources for Advanced Practices brochure is a compilation of strategies that have been demonstrated to improve patient safety in office practice.

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.

Return to Guide to Improving Patient Safety in Primary Care Settings by Engaging Patients and Families

Page last reviewed April 2018
Page originally created October 2016
Internet Citation: Patient and Family Engagement in Primary Care. Content last reviewed April 2018. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.