I am nominating The Foundation for Healthy Communities for this award because of the unique opportunity that they have provided for New Hampshire hospitals to make a real difference in patient engagement. They knew that the key to effective engagement was to bridge the gap between hospitals and patients. They have hired a patient and family advisor to build that bridge. The advisor works within each hospital to develop or enhance their patient engagement efforts. This is an innovative collaboration between state, hospital, community and patients. The Foundation for Healthy Communities not only encourages partnering with patients, they model it.
I met with Anne Diefendorf and Greg Vasse from the Foundation for Healthy Communities over tea one afternoon in Nashua, NH. They had heard about some of my work on behalf of patients and wanted some input regarding a patient engagement symposium that they wanted to put on for the HRET hospital members in New Hampshire. They wanted to hear about my son, Noah, who died years ago from medical error, and the presentations and work that I have done since. I spoke as I always do honestly from the heart. I expressed my frustration when I see organizations engage patients superficially and not allowing them to really function as partners.
As we talked, an idea began to form, there was a deep understanding on their part that maybe the hospitals did not need just another engagement educational opportunity but really needed someone to be able to individualize patient engagement in each hospital. They decided to pilot the concept of a Patient Engagement Consultant, really a coach, in one hospital. This hospital had an existing Patient Family Advisory Council (PFAC) but it had lost momentum and members. The number one complaint from patients in the clinical setting is that they are not being heard; this PFAC very much felt this way. The introduction of me by The Foundation allowed me access to both the PFAC chair, hospital leadership and the PFAC members. I met with each group and together worked out a plan with them to reignite passion for PFAC.
We slowly added hospitals one by one to see if the coaching model could be replicated in other settings. This model continued to be successful and is now been rolled out to all 25 HRET HEN hospitals in New Hampshire. The success of this project began with the bold step that the Foundation took in deciding to put a patient at the head of patient engagement from a state level. I have many credentials in healthcare but I am, and forever will be, Noah’s mom, the young mother who did not know how to be heard in the busy confusing world of healthcare. The Foundation sees this connection and experience as strength in what I do. My story makes me an insider with all patient groups. The Foundation’s support of me makes me a healthcare insider. Here’s what we do are doing:
- Assessing the current state of patient engagement
- Providing ideas and methods to engage patients in their own healthcare
- Measuring readiness to engage patients in organizational design and governance
- Working with hospital leadership to develop a strategic plan for patient engagement
- Presenting at the hospital/ department level to educate and ignite passion for patient engagement
- Meeting with and encouraging leadership, clinician and staff buy-in
- Identifying and breaking down real and perceived barriers
- Preparing hospital staff and patients to have patient representatives on hospital committees and in simulation lab
- Designing, implementing and evaluating PFAC
- Mentoring and guiding PFAC facilitators
- Developing in-house PFAC policies and procedures
- Helping to develop internal patient stories for training and awareness
Baseline survey results from January 2013 showed that only one of the 25 (4 percent) hospitals could answer “yes” to the Partnership for Patients patient engagement questions. New surveys are presently being distributed, but from the work that I am seeing, the 4 percent will move up quite a bit. However, the real achievement is the enthusiasm and understanding of the value and importance of patient engagement. There was some hesitancy in the beginning from hospitals to have me come in for an initial meeting. The Foundation provided multiple opportunities to share their new resource and now all the hospitals are comfortable working with me and engaging patients. The numbers will show success and the feedback from the hospitals and patients has all been very positive but the real achievement is the building and strengthening of communities. There are the communities in which the hospitals reside, the community with each hospital and the community that is being built among the hospitals and patient/family advisors. This is not just an initiative to be able to say “yes” to the test, it is strengthening the patient voice in all these communities.