5 reasons why strengthening patient family partnerships is a priority
At AAMC, partnering with patients and families in a priority. But why? Some of the reasons are obvious – we want to give the best care possible and we need their insight and feedback in order to do that – and others are less so. Here are five reasons why strengthening those relationships should always be a top priority. (This article was reprinted with permission from Planetree International.)
- It humanizes healthcare. You would be hard pressed to find a healthcare professional who has not also reversed roles and been a patient and/or family member of a patient at some point in their lives. However, as we become immersed in the business of healthcare and doing our jobs, it can be increasingly challenging to access that personal connection to what it is like to be a patient. To be in an unfamiliar setting, hearing strange terms and trying to piece together what to expect next from a series of disjointed exchanges with various members of the care team. This is human nature. Our perspectives evolve with our experiences. Partnering with past and current patients and family members
servesas a reality check for how the general public experiences healthcare, and grounds discussions of highly technical, at times highly charged, emotional issues, in the human experience.
- It builds trust. For generations, standard healthcare operating procedure has cast patients and family members as consumers of healthcare services while healthcare professionals are not only the providers of those services but also the chief orchestrators of the patient experience. This has fueled an “us versus them” mentality, which too often leaves patients fearing that they are collateral concerns in the big business of healthcare, with their best interests and personal priorities not always the predominant forces driving their care. Partnering with patients and family advisors breaks down both the symbolic and very real barriers that have created this divide, and helps to build trust, which is the heart of patient and family engagement, now increasingly recognized as a driver of high quality, high-value care.
- It takes some of the guesswork out of how patients perceive and interact with us. At a time when healthcare organizations’ reimbursement is increasingly tied to patient-reported measures of quality, including patient experience surveys, it only makes sense that the first time we ask patients how we’re doing should not be when they hear those survey questions. This is not a one-time conversation; it should be an ongoing dialogue. For too long, healthcare leaders and teams have presumed to know what is most important to patients and what “good care” means to them—without asking them. The results have been a healthcare system in which provider values and priorities tend to guide most decisions, at the expense of designing a healthcare system that optimally meets patients’ needs.
- It fuels a loyal customer base and creates a cadre of your most vocal and influential ambassadors out in the community. Welcoming in past and present patients and family members to work shoulder-to-shoulder with staff creates a sense of inclusion and connection that feeds volunteer advisors’ loyalty to your organization, a sense of pride in being associated with your brand and a desire to communicate that loyalty and pride to others. To have these messages communicated by real patients brings
a credibilityand authenticity that no paid advertising or public relations effort could ever even approach!
- It makes healthcare better. By involving patients and family members in ongoing quality improvement efforts, we build mutual accountability for quality. And, of course, the stakes for a high-quality healthcare system are highest for patients and family members themselves. Partnering with patients and families raises the bar for how we design and deliver optimal healthcare…and that’s a good thing…for all of us!