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Because your voice matters.

The Spectrum of Public Participation: Bringing a Valuable Tool to Life!


Categories: Building Skills, Patient Voice Mail

The IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation is a tool used in decision-making. Whether you’re a patient or health care partner, the spectrum is a valuable tool in setting expectations, identifying how patient partners are engaged and to what extent they can influence the outcomes.

When new patient partners attend orientation to the Patient Voices Network, they learn about the IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation, commonly referred to as the “spectrum”. Health care partners’ first exposure to the spectrum is often when they fill out our Engagement Request Form when starting the process of engaging patient partners or when reading our Guide to Patient Engagement.

“When partnering together, being clear and sincere about how people’s input will be used is absolutely critical. The distinctions in The Spectrum of Public Participation help those planning opportunities to reflect on the goals of the engagement and what they can honestly and respectfully commit to. The spectrum also helps those who participate in engagement opportunities to make informed choices about where they contribute their time, energy and wisdom.”

-Chelsea Hochfilzer, Manager, Patient Voices Network | Patient & Public Engagement

But do patient partners use the spectrum when participating in engagements? We’ve created a new resource, IAP2 Spectrum: Defining Expectations that helps simplify how to categorize engagement opportunities.

Being On the Same Page

The spectrum is a tool to help set expectations to ensure everyone is on the same page. It can help avoid situations where a patient partner anticipates having a robust discussion and being part of the decision-making process, when their role is simply to provide feedback through a focus group. This is a great example of the differences between engagement opportunities at the level of “Collaborate” and “Consult.”

Jami Brown, Engagement Leader at the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council has some advice for patient partners.

“If I were to give patient partners some advice, it would be to make sure they understand that health care teams are encouraged to choose the level that they can honestly commit to. Sometimes patient partners have expectations that their involvement should be at a different level.

“When meeting with both patient partners and health care teams, I find I am spending more time having discussions which align expectations and defining patient roles from the start.”

Navigating the Spectrum

Patient partner Diane Edlund shared how she’s navigated the spectrum.

 “When deciding on which opportunities to participate in through PVN, I always consider the level of engagement. When I first joined PVN, I found an opportunity for a topic of interest with a short-term commitment and something I could easily envision myself doing (Consult).

“Then, after I was comfortable with that, I thought it would be fun to try an in-person workshop – a slightly longer-term commitment (Involve).

“Once I was comfortable understanding how the system worked and was comfortable in the role of person/family/caregiver partner, I joined a steering committee (Collaborate).

“I have enjoyed working at all these levels and now make decisions on participation based on the knowledge I have acquired in all these roles. I look forward to the day when we will find projects that I can lead or co-lead (Empower).”

Whether you’re a health care partner planning a project or a patient partner participating, the spectrum and the new Defining Expectations resource will be valuable tools.

Author: Carol Stathers, Engagement Lead, BC Patient Safety & Quality Council

From Our Community

Layton Engwer

Patient Partner, Sooke

Layton Engwer

PVN helped empower me to make meaningful contributions to Primary Care (PC) locally and provincially.  It also facilitated creation of PC Patient Voices which is focused on PC and provides education support and building on shared experiences.