Maximize benefits of patient advisers with updated patient engagement strategies

Hospitals must re-evaluate how they receive feedback from patients, using them as advisers to address patient-care issues from first-hand experience, and do more to engage patients through recommended strategies, according to a Hospitals & Health Networks article.

At Nemours Children's Health System, with hospitals in Orlando, Florida and Wilmington, Delaware, leaders put patients on advisory councils, use them as consultants on building projects and gets feedback from them by moving change-of-shift report conversations into the patient room, H&HN reported. This boosted outcomes, patient experience and satisfaction. 

Hospital leaders and C-suite executives must take the lead when it comes to engaging patients. The University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor has 32 advisory councils and a 200-member e-faculty to discuss issues via the Internet, and any time those initiatives encounter a roadblock, a team of appointed C-suite executives, known as barrier busters, directly address the problem, according to the article.

Once the C-suite buys in, the organization as a whole must focus efforts on patient input. Georgia Regents Health System in Augusta has 135 patient and family advisors on more than 30 advisory councils, who often speak with new medical residents entering the organization, sit in on interview with new directors, tag along on rounds and travel with hospital leaders to speak on patient engagement, according to H&HN. This helps the hospital identify small concerns that have a negative impact on patient experience.

Be sure patient and family advisors receive training on how to productively participate and and members don't have a bad record or could get the hospital in legal trouble for past actions. Training physicians to spot ideal candidates can ease this process. Georgia Regents sets specific and strict agendas for advisory council meetings, and each council reports to the system's executive advisory councils to measure progress and effectiveness.

Hospitals should considering giving patients the option of rapid-response team if they feel if they feel doctors and staff don't address their concerns and fears regarding treatment, as first demonstrated by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in 2005, according to the article.

"Patients do better, have better treatment results, stay healthier and promote wellness when we recognize [healthcare] as a partnership, rather than the paternalistic way we've looked at it historically." Karen Frush, M.D., a professor of medicine and chief patient safety officer at Duke University Health System, a joint-venture partner with LifePoint, told H&HN

To learn more:
- here's the article