3 ways Brigham and Women's engages patients, improves care

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Hospitals that make an effort to gain a greater understanding of what a patient experiences during a hospital stay can significantly improve care quality and outcomes.

That’s the experience at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, which has worked for nine years with a patient and family advisory council to better understand what it’s like to be an inpatient and how to improve the patient experience.

And the engagement effort goes beyond basic service improvements, such as better food. Ultimately, the approach could “elevate healthcare to the exemplary level of service seen in today’s consumer industries,” Maureen Fagan, associate chief nurse for OB-GYN at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the executive director for its Center for Patients and Families, writes in a post for Hospitals & Health Networks.

Fagan shares three tips to make the most of patient and family advisers:

1. Seek out a diverse group of patients and caregivers who represent the hospital’s patient populations. To find 8 to 12 advisers, Brigham & Women’s asked questions such as: “Tell us something that went wrong and what you would have preferred to have happened,” Fagan writes.

2. Don’t expect one group of advisers to represent all patients. The hospital has more than 85 patients and family members serving on 16 different councils to offer advice on individual service lines. Individual councils focus on LGBTQ healthcare, ethics, emergency care and obstetrics, for example. 

3. Give the councils the ability to help influence decisions on care delivery. Once trained, Fagan writes, it’s vital the organization give patient and family advisers the authority to make decisions. The hospital's advisers are “meaningful contributors to policy and process changes.”