5 ways to involve patients and families in achieving the Triple Aim

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To achieve meaningful care quality and improve safety, providers must partner and collaborate with patient and family advisors, according to a new guide from the American Hospital Association's Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence.

Patient and family engagement is essential to healthcare's "Triple Aim" of improved care, improved outcomes and reduced costs. Hospitals and health systems are working to expand engagement efforts beyond bedside interventions and enlisting patients and families in the process, eliminating the need to make assumptions about what aspects of care are important to them, according to the guide.

For such provider-patient partnerships to operate effectively, providers must take several key measures, including these five outlined in the report:

1. Recruit patient and family advisors: To choose advisors, first identify necessary skills or experiences to make sure candidates can identify with the initiative. For example, recruit a patient or family member of a patient who fell during a recent stay for a fall-reduction initiative.

2. Prepare advisors for a partnership: Once the recruitment process is complete, hospitals and health systems should provide training that incorporates the committee's history, objectives, composition and relevant protocols, according to the guide, as well as explaining workplace jargon and terminology to them.

3. Develop a culture of engagement: To acclimate staff to the partnership, providers should take steps such as enabling ongoing feedback, tying patient and family advisor involvement to employee goals and making sure employees have the opportunity to ask questions or voice concerns about the initiative.

4. Implement and measure improvement programs: It is vital that leaders "align the correct metric to each quality improvement group that has patient and family advisors," according to the guide. For example, project effectiveness should be measured in factors such as number of successful initiatives and their costs, patient satisfaction should be measured by HCAHPS survey scores and reduced hospital-acquired conditions for care quality/patient safety.

5. Maintain long-term relationships: Patient and family advisors will not be kept in the loop after the end of an improvement project in which they are involved, so it is important for providers to sustain a culture of partnership by keeping communication channels open after that point, according to the guide.