Quality Control

PAM Surveys: The Best Way to Measure Patient Activation Levels

Learn how to use PAM surveys to design personalized, effective healthcare strategies tailored to individual patient needs and capabilities.
December 1, 2023
4 min

Patient activation describes the extent to which individuals are informed, engaged, and confident in managing their health. 

Measuring patient activation levels provides invaluable insights for designing patient-centered care strategies and interventions. It helps clinics identify those who might require additional support or resources, ensuring that all patients receive care that is in line with their specific needs and capabilities. 

You can find a quick summary of this post in the infographic below. For more details, keep reading past it.

Infographic outlining how to measure patient activation using PAM surveys.

What is the Patient Activation Measure (PAM)? 

The Patient Activation Measure (PAM) is a tool that captures the patients' knowledge, skills, and beliefs about their ability to self-manage, as well as the likelihood that they will act on these beliefs. 

Using this information, healthcare providers can personalize care to the individual, leading to improved well-being and a reduction in unplanned and emergency care visits.

Comprising 10 to 13 items, the PAM is a validated questionnaire licensed from Insignia Health LLC. The responses to these questions provide an individual’s ‘activation’ score on a 0-100 point scale (higher score = more activation). 

PAM scores are categorized into four levels of activation, each providing valuable insights into various health-related characteristics, behaviors, and outcomes.

The breakdown of the four patient activation levels.
The breakdown of the four patient activation levels. Source: NHS

Steps for implementing PAM in healthcare settings

Implementing PAM in healthcare settings requires planning, engagement of both staff and patients, and a commitment to continuous improvement.

 Here are the steps you’ll need to take:

  1. Identify the need: The initial step involves identifying the target patient population and determining the desired improvement in their activation levels. It’s essential to understand and articulate the expected impact of increased patient knowledge, skills, and confidence on health outcomes. This stage is crucial for setting clear objectives and expectations for the PAM implementation​​.
  2. Involve people and clarify PAM purpose: You’ll want to involve senior managers, providing briefings and Q&A sessions for all staff, and clarifying responsibilities and tasks related to PAM implementation. For patients, it's about providing clear information on the purpose of PAM, its benefits, and how it can improve health outcomes. 
  3. Micro-planning: Considerations include identifying the point at which patient care begins to be tailored, exploring the options available for patient support, and determining how to assess the effectiveness of these options. 
  4. Identify resources needed: Essential elements include training staff in PAM administration, ensuring the IT system can incorporate PAM scores, and establishing a mechanism to link PAM scores with clinical data and intervention records. 
  5. Complete your implementation plan: The plan should outline what successful PAM usage looks like, establish a timeline for implementation, allocate resources, define roles and responsibilities, assign specific tasks to staff members, and set up systems for monitoring and evaluation. 

You should end up with a pragmatic plan of action that reflects the needs and capabilities of the organization, endorsed by key stakeholders​.

What to do with the data collected through PAM surveys?

In principle, PAM can be used in two ways: to personalize provided care and to track patients' activation levels over time.

Patients with low PAM scores will need a lot of attention, education, and encouragement, while those who scored high will do fine with fewer follow-ups and telephone (instead of in-person) consultations.

Below is one example of how to tailor your actions based on discussed activation levels.

An example of how to personalize care based on the patient's PAM level.
Tailoring support based on PAM level. Source: The Strategy Unit

The future of patient activation measurement

Emerging trends in patient activation and measurement are based on technological advancements — such as wearable health devices and patient portals — providing new ways to engage patients and gather data on their health behaviors and preferences. 

These innovations have the potential to revolutionize patient activation measurement, offering real-time insights and a more proactive, patient-centric approach to healthcare delivery.

While we work towards that future, collecting patient feedback and integrating PAM surveys into the standard care process will be crucial in realizing the full potential of patient-centered care.

InsiderCX Editorial Team
This article was researched, written, polished, and published by the InsiderCX editorial team.

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