​How to set up a PFAC to improve patient experiences

July 29, 2016 Diane Clark

Are you looking to take your patient feedback and engagement to the next level? One way is to setup a Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC). It can be an effective tool in turning patient feedback into actual improvements to the patient experience.
The first thing is to create a plan including what goals you hope to accomplish, how you will get buy in from stakeholders and patients, and how exactly you will accomplish them. Once you have a vision of what the council can accomplish, it will be easier to work out the details of how to make it happen.
There are some logistical considerations to be taken, such as who will participate (ratio of staff and patients) and how you will recruit the members. When choosing patients, it is best to include ones who do not have unresolved issues in order to create a safe environment for learning and improving based on feedback. It may be necessary to screen some patients to ensure a cohesive group that are all interested in helping to improve patient experience. It is also important to have meetings in a location that is conducive to sharing and honesty. Consider the comfort and potential needs or concerns of the members.
When meetings do happen, there should be a facilitator to make things go smoothly. Set expectations upfront so that patients and members all know exactly what is expected of them throughout and after the meeting. A good place to start with meetings is having patients tell their stories. It helps set the tone and allows members to bond more readily. Use open-ended questions whenever possible to encourage conversation and steer people away from defensive behavior. Resist the temptation to fix everything at once, and end the meeting with one or two key items that will be put in your organization’s next improvement cycle.
Communication is key before, during and after any PFAC forums or meetings. Communicate ahead of time so that expectations are very clear to all participants. Communicate both the detailed logistics and the bigger vision and purpose of the PFAC. During the meeting, the facilitator should ensure that all members feel safe enough to speak and that they feel their words and stories are being heard. Communication after the forum is just as important. Patients want to know that they did not waste their time, and they want to make a difference. Key learnings from the meetings also need to be communicated internally so that changes are made. Be sure to close the loop with council members by letting them know what changed and when it was implemented.
How will you track these communications? This should be determined at the outset so that it is consistent throughout the process. Consider adding a PFAC form to your RL6:Feedback module. Will you be communicating the PFAC to everyone? I recently walked through a hospital as a patient I saw a poster advertising its PFAC. It sure made me feel like a person instead of just another illness to be treated. I left that hospital feeling like it was very patient-centered and that my needs were met. Hopefully your patients will feel the same way!

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