Patient councils, apps show promise in incorporating patient voice into delivery reform

Female doctor talking to male patient in hospital bed
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has gained significant insight from its patient council. (Getty/monkeybusinessimages)

There's a growing body of evidence that links patient engagement to care quality, and providers are increasingly focused on improving the patient experience. But incorporating the patient perspective into healthcare innovation can be a challenge for providers.

Among the tactics that physicians say show promise: patient councils and consumer apps. 

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, for example, planned to implement a bedside camera system so that parents could monitor newborns remotely, according to a NEJM Catalyst blog post. But one of the members of the patient council pointed out that the option, if available around-the-clock, could actually make it harder for new parents to get the rest they need. 

"Providers and administrators might have good intentions, but it doesn't mean we're always right," John Chuo, M.D., improvement advisor and neonatal quality officer at CHOP, told the publication. 

RELATED: How patient-reported data can improve quality measures 

In a recent NEJM Catalyst survey, 49% of clinicians said patient councils or other patient representatives are the most promising way to bring the patient voice into healthcare. Forty-eight percent said incorporating consumerism into care delivery also shows promise, and 42% said the same about apps that target consumers. 

Chuo said that hospital leaders should have a plan in place to integrate a patient council, and that once one is established they should be "prepared to change." 

RELATED: Provider-patient communication about obesity is inadequate, study finds 

Sachin H. Jain, M.D., president and CEO of CareMore Health System, recently offered several best practices to include patient voices

  • Engage with patients outside of the health facility. Clinical settings may not always be the best locations to seek feedback, as patients may be worried about offending medical professionals, Jain said. 
  • Apply the patient perspective to care redesign. Not only does this allow a healthcare facility to respond to patient needs, it proves providers are listening. 
  • Have managers meet with patients. Nonclinical healthcare leadership may not hear from patients directly if those channels are not made available. 

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