Empowering patients by empowering health care organizations: a comparative study

Carmela Annarumma, Rocco Palumbo, Mauro Cavallone


The provision of health services is basically a co-creation process, where the patient acts as a critical co-producer of care. In fact, patient empowerment represents a cornerstone of the reforms which inspires the future shape of European health care systems. Ultimately, patient empowerment involves the “patients' individual needs for developing autonomy and competence with their disease” (Prigge, et al., 2015, p. 375). To the authors’ knowledge, scientific literature has focused most of its attention on the process of patient enablement while the role played by health care organizations in empowering patients has been widely overlooked. Organizational health literacy is a fundamental ingredient in the recipe for increased patient empowerment. Indeed, organizational health literacy concerns the ability of health care organizations to establish clear and comfortable relationships with patients, involving them in a co-creating relationship. This paper is aimed at exploring the organizational health literacy of pharmacies, which operate as fundamental patient navigators in the current health care arena. For this purpose, a comparative study of 2 convenience samples of Italian pharmacies was performed. The findings of this research suggested that the units of analysis were aware of their role in enabling patients, but they did not conceive organizational health literacy as being either a strategic or a managerial tool to enhance their ability to empower patients and to engage them in the process of value co-creation. Further developments are needed to enhance the organizational health literacy of pharmacies and to increase their ability to perform as patient navigators.


organizational health literacy; health literacy; health communication; patient-centered care; pharmacies

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