A New Framework for Working with Patient and Family Advisers

Boards have a keen interest in quality, and they are helping their hospitals and systems to implement a variety of improvement strategies. One particularly effective tactic is building successful partnerships with patients and families by including patient and family advisers. A new guide from the American Hospital Association’s Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence initiative, “Partnering to Improve Quality and Safety: A Framework for Working with Patient and Family Advisors,” presents a structure to engage patients and families as advisers on these important issues.

Developed by the AHA’s Symposium for Leaders in Healthcare Quality, the guide aims to help hospitals and systems build and sustain partnerships with patients and families to accelerate the pace of transformation in pursuit of the Triple Aim — improve the patient care experience, improve the health of populations and lower the per capita cost of health care.

The guide provides information and best practices for hospital and system boards and leaders, including: whom to recruit as advisers, how to prepare patient and family advisers and how to create a culture of engagement in the organization. The guide also provides steps to get started; suggested metrics to determine the effectiveness of these partnerships; how to address privacy concerns; and field interviews with a patient adviser and hospital quality leader that offer additional insight into how these relationships benefit patients and patient care.

Staff members from hospitals and systems have worked with patient and family advisers on teams to improve discharge, conduct root cause analyses, and discuss and test processes to reduce infections, decrease falls and prevent readmissions, for example. Patient and family advisers offer a fresh perspective, and their involvement can help to accelerate patient safety and quality improvement efforts.

HPOE is the AHA’s strategic platform to accelerate performance improvement and support delivery system transformation in the nation’s hospitals and health care systems. The HPOE website, www.hpoe.org, houses resources on patient and family engagement as well as a wide range of other quality improvement topics. The Symposium for Leaders in Healthcare Quality is a community of quality and patient safety professionals whose work is focused on performance. It identifies and disseminates best practices and resources for improvement, provides education and experiential learning opportunities, and promotes collaboration in order to transform health care. Learn more at www.aha-slhq.org.

Fred Gattas Jr. (fpgattas@gmail.com), is COG chair and a trustee of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.