My GrantWatch column in the newly released February 2013 issue of Health Affairs focuses on what foundations around the country have been funding in these areas. Of course, the column includes only a sampling of foundation-funded activities. The column is free access to all.

Health philanthropy has been exploring patient engagement in its grant making as well as continuing to fund in the “older” areas of patient safety and health care quality. The theme of the journal’s February issue, which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, and the California HealthCare Foundation, is the “New Era of Patient Engagement.” As our editor-in-chief Susan Dentzer explains to readers in her column introducing the issue, “patient engagement is variously defined.” She points out that the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, once led by Don Berwick, says that patient engagement encompasses “actions that people take for their health and to benefit from care.”

Then there is the similar term, “patient activation.” In this issue of Health Affairs, Judy Hibbard of the University of Oregon and her coauthors describe it as “understanding one’s own role in the care process and having the knowledge, skills, and confidence to take on that role.” Well, enough about definitions!

In my GrantWatch column, I mention two Institute of Medicine reports funded by groups of foundations. You may want to check these out for background reading on the topics of patient engagement and quality of care. Also, I list some components of the Affordable Care Act that are related to these concepts.

Patient Engagement

Read in this section of the column about the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s huge Patient Care Program. This funder has allocated $500 million over ten years for this effort. (Yes, you read that right!)

The Blue Shield of California Foundation also funds in this area as part of its work to strengthen the safety net in California.

I found that the Health Foundation, an independent charity located in London, England, is interested in patient- and family-centered care in the United Kingdom.

And back in the United States, the Maine Health Access Foundation, a statewide funder, has made patient engagement an important facet of one of its grants programs.

Read about the nine “Guiding Principles for Patient Engagement.” The RWJF funded development of the principles, which are intended for nurses and other providers.

Patient Safety and Prevention of Medical Errors

Medical errors are something that many of us worry about if we have to be treated at a hospital. The Cambia Health Foundation (formerly the Regence Foundation) funded the “Oregon Adverse Event Disclosure Guide” for health care providers; the column describes this short publication and the reasons for it.

I also mention the Pew Charitable Trusts’ work in this area. Pew has a Medical Safety Program, which includes its efforts to ensure the safety of both pharmaceutical products and medical devices. (Pew used to be a foundation when I first started working on the GrantWatch section here at the journal. Several years ago, it changed its status to that of public charity. However, Pew does interesting work, and I continue to write about it from time to time.)

Improving Quality of Care

Foundations have been active in this area for some time. I mention just two funders here: the Aetna Foundation and the Jewish Healthcare Foundation. The Aetna Foundation, a corporate funder, awarded a grant to the RAND Corporation for a national study that Health Affairs readers are bound to be interested in. RAND researchers are examining the effects of poor care coordination on both the quality and the cost of care in the United States. The foundation expects study results sometime this year.

One can’t mention the Jewish Healthcare Foundation’s quality of care efforts without talking about the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative, an operating arm of the foundation. Read about the initiative, as well as a new center recently launched by the foundation (located in Pittsburgh) and Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

This is just a snapshot of quality efforts. Read in other GrantWatch sections (for example, here) about the RWJF’s well-known Aligning Forces for Quality initiative.

Staffing and Trustee News at Foundations

This column has news of some big names in health policy, such as Karen Davis and Mark Smith. Also, find out who has been appointed to the board of Grantmakers In Health and more.

Other articles in the issue written by authors you may recognize:

Dominick Frosch, a new fellow at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, is coauthor of “An Effort to Spread Decision Aids in Five California Primary Care Practices Yielded Low Distribution, Highlighting Hurdles.”

Jill Mathews Yegian, a former California HealthCare Foundation staffer who is now at the American Institutes for Research, is lead author, and Maribeth Shannon, a foundation staffer, is one of the coauthors, of “Engaged Patients Will Need Comparative Physician-Level Quality Data and Information about Their Out-of-Pocket Costs.”

Lygeia Ricciardi, a former Markle Foundation staffer who is now in the federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, is lead author of “A National Action Plan to Support Consumer Engagement Via E-Health.”

Finally, Barbara Yondorf,  who at one time worked for the Rose Community Foundation, in Denver, and now has her own consulting firm in the Mile-High City, is among the coauthors of “State Insurance Exchanges Face Challenges in Offering Standardized Choices alongside Innovative Value-Based Insurance.”