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Fostering Patient and Family Partnerships

by Geri Lynn Baumblatt, MA, and Doug Della Pietra (left)

Doug Della PietraAt Rochester General, the PFAC was taking on big challenges. However, big changes take longer to see results. So we challenged ourselves to go to PFAC meetings with practical pressing questions the hospital is trying to grapple with that could also demonstrate the staff are engaged in working with them to improve care. We can’t do everything all at once, so we asked:


If we significantly improved the patient experience over the next 3 years, what will we have changed and implemented? 

With this centering question, the PFAC spent the next six months reflecting, storytelling, brainstorming, distilling and prioritizing opportunities. But after just two meetings, they identified their top five improvements:


1. Communication
2. Continuity of care
3. Medication safety
4. Family engagement
5. Consistency of caregivers

The PFAC selected “communication” as their primary focus. They thought about their experiences and what they would always want to experience. They came up with a list of more than 20 communication practices. So using SurveyMonkey, they created a top 3 list:
1. Implementing bedside shift report
2. Engagement with patients and families through in-room communication boards
3. Informing family members when a patient is moved to another room/unit to eliminate the shock and fear if this change isn’t communicated 
After ranking the top 3, the PFAC used one of its monthly meetings to conduct whiteboard audits. Equipped with clipboards and checklists and assigned in pairs -- one patient/family partner and one hospital staff -- the PFAC audited about 60% of the whiteboards in the hospital’s 500+ bed inpatient units.

Creating patient-centered WHite boards 

One finding was that at least half of the whiteboards either did not have daily goals listed or the ones that did were not patient-driven or written in medical terminology that was easy to understand.

For example, several whiteboards had “Ambulate” as the daily goal. Instead, one patient floor used plain language and 3 checkboxes (for the number of times) next to the word “Walk.” A goal that was understandable and measurable for the patient and caregiver. Thus, the patient/family partners' advice: use that excellent practice on the other units. Something that was easy to quickly implement and demonstrated engagement to the PFAC.

A Work in Progress

Patient and family partnership and engagement is a work in progress. Where is your organization in the process of building partnerships? What insights can you add based on your organization’s experience and that of your patient/family partners?

Doug Della Pietra is the Director of Patient Experience & Volunteer Services for Rochester General Hospital, Rochester, NY. Optimizing the patient and family experience is his passion and involves shaping and guiding a holistic strategy -- especially the personal, emotional and spiritual aspects of experience. Doug led the establishment of the hospital’s Patient & Family Advisory Council in 2013 and serves as its co-chair along with one of the Council’s patient/family advisors. @DougDellaPietra

Geri Lynn Baumblatt, MA, is the Executive Director of Patient Engagement at Emmi where she oversees the creation of multimedia patient engagement, education, shared decision-making, and behavior change Emmi programs and interactive phone calls. She hosts an annual October Health Literacy Month blog series for Engaging the Patient. She serves as an Editorial Board member for the Journal of Patient Experience. Emmi Solutions works with decision scientists, behavior change experts, patients, and clinicians; they draw on their research and experience to create content that helps patients engage in their care. @GeriLynn


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Co-author: Doug Della Pietra

At Rochester General, the PFAC was taking on big challenges. However, big changes take longer to see results. We can’t do everything all at once, so we asked: If we significantly improved the patient experience over the next 3 years, what will we have changed and implemented? >>>

Tags: communication, patient advisory councils
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