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Health Expect. 2009 Sep;12(3):275-87. doi: 10.1111/j.1369-7625.2009.00564.x.

Revolution or evolution: the challenges of conceptualizing patient and public involvement in a consumerist world.

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Public Management and Policy Group, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK.



Changing the relationship between citizens and the state is at the heart of current policy reforms. Across England and the developed world, from Oslo to Ontario, Newcastle to Newquay, giving the public a more direct say in shaping the organization and delivery of healthcare services is central to the current health reform agenda. Realigning public services around those they serve, based on evidence from service user's experiences, and designed with and by the people rather than simply on their behalf, is challenging the dominance of managerialism, marketization and bureaucratic expertise. Despite this attention there is limited conceptual and theoretical work to underpin policy and practice.


This article proposes a conceptual framework for patient and public involvement (PPI) and goes on to explore the different justifications for involvement and the implications of a rights-based rather than a regulatory approach. These issues are highlighted through exploring the particular evolution of English health policy in relation to PPI on the one hand and patient choice on the other before turning to similar patterns apparent in the United States and more broadly.


A framework for conceptualizing PPI is presented that differentiates between the different types and aims of involvement and their potential impact. Approaches to involvement are different in those countries that adopt a rights-based rather than a regulatory approach. I conclude with a discussion of the tension and interaction apparent in the globalization of both involvement and patient choice in both policy and practice.

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