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Patient and Family Engagement Ramps Up in MaineGeneral System

Patient and Family Engagement Ramps Up in MaineGeneral System

This post is from both Barbara Leonard, Vice President for Programs, Maine Health Access Foundation, and Joan Orr, Project & Operations Manager for MaineGeneral physician practices.  MaineGeneral has received MeHAF grant funding for their project, "Effective Patient Engagement in Primary Care Transformation."  Joan serves as the program director, and Barbara oversees the grant for MeHAF.

Barbara:  "Some of these items make sense, but some of these are less important to me." This was the reaction I heard from a patient at a February meeting of the Winthrop Patient and Family Advisory Council. Council members were reviewing categories included in a summary of patient experience reporting on the performance of Winthrop Family Medicine and Winthrop Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. Why were these patients and family members even looking at the information? Because MaineGeneral is committed to trying new ways of engaging patients and families to help improve how health care is delivered.  The Advisory Council noted that for them, communication, as well as respect and trust between patient and provider are very important to a positive patient experience, whereas waiting time is less crucial.  It was so good to see patients, family members and staff working together to figure out what elements of care are most important and think about how to make things work even better. I've asked Joan to share her perspective as program director.

Joan:  Patient and Family Advisory Councils were started in 2010 at the Winthrop practices, and their work is translating to the system level. We at MaineGeneral are involving patients and family members in a variety of ways beyond the scope of councils including representation in staff meetings, workgroups, focus groups and Board retreats.  We are developing some innovative ideas, including pajama advisors (volunteers who work from home), and secret shoppers, among others.  MaineGeneral is also working to better integrate and coordinate its services with those of the practices. This work is taking place with practices owned by MaineGeneral as well as Federally Qualified Health Centers and those that remain private. MaineGeneral recognizes that patient feedback is critical to providing appropriate support for patients in an increasingly challenging health care environment. 

To supplement the voice of these patients and families who volunteer their time, MaineGeneral gathers patient feedback from the broader community using a nationally recognized survey tool called CG-CAHPS (Clinical and Group Consumer Assessment of Health Providers and Systems).  As Barbara noted above, the results of this survey are shared with council members. 

A Patient Engagement Collaborative Workgroup has been established with seven practices and the medical center to help guide this work and we're bringing in resources from the Institute for Patient and Family Centered Care to take advantage of what others around the country have learned.

Final thoughts:  We both attended the Quality Counts annual meeting, Partnering with Patients, on April 4, where over 500 Maine providers, policymakers, researchers, and others working to help Maine people get quality health care gathered to delve more deeply into the topic of patient engagement.  MaineGeneral presented its work as a model for others to learn from.  We'd also love to learn from you.  What examples do you know of that include patient and family voices to improve the way care is delivered?  How have these helped patients and providers to get and give quality health care services?

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