Consumer engagement in health services in Queensland, Australia: A qualitative study about perspectives of engaged consumers
Ehrlich, C., Slattery, M. & Kendall, E.
Successive health policies demonstrate unwavering commitment to partnering with consumers and communities. However, engaging consumers is complex and replete with priorities, perspectives and values that are firmly held, virtuous and different. In the context of political imperatives and different approaches to partnering with consumers in health services, we sought to explore consumers’ experiences of engagement in public, private, primary care and non‐government health services in Queensland, Australia. Participants identified themselves as consumers of health services and were currently, or had previously been, involved in planning, designing, delivering, monitoring and/or evaluating health services; were aged over 18 and consented to being involved. This qualitative study used semi‐structured individual interviews to collect data which were analysed thematically. Four themes were identified, (a) authentic engagement and representation: asking, listening and acknowledging; (b) a continuum of consumer expertise; (c) contested engagement: transgressing health services thresholds of tolerance and (d) creating value for consumers and health services: reciprocity, trust, respect and remuneration. Findings demonstrated that ‘rules of engagement’ exist between consumers and staff employed in clinical, managerial, executive and administrative positions within health services in response to a legislated requirement that health services partner with consumers. The rules of consumer engagement centred on authenticity, transparency, expertise and individual capacity to transcend personal experience. If health services and the broader public are to fully benefit from safety and quality advances proposed by partnering with consumers, then it is essential that areas of contestation are identified and addressed.