Patients and Families as Leaders in Health Care

23 Aug 2011

Oregon’s Patients and Families as Leaders program works with five health care organizations to include patients in all levels of health care decision-making. The program now includes over 70 patient and family advisors. Providence Medical Group, one of the participating health care organizations, has enrolled a number of patient and family advisors, including Margie Turner.

Margie has had a range of health care experiences - both good and bad. So when she was asked to join Providence Medical Group’s Patient & Family Advisory Council to help improve care for others, she didn’t hesitate to jump in with both feet.

“Before I started going to Providence Medical Group, my experience of health care wasn’t that great,” she says. “As a member of the Patient & Family Advisory Council, I feel I can use my experiences to help make a difference.”

Even though the council is only four months old, Margie and her fellow advisors are already making a difference. Their input and perspectives are helping to shape health care programs and improve communications for other patients.

One of the council’s first tasks was to create a vision of the best health care experience from a patient’s perspective. Margie and another advisor then presented this vision to three different clinics that are starting to develop a team-based approach to providing comprehensive, coordinated primary care (called patient centered medical homes). Margie has also participated in an orientation for new managers and supervisors at Providence Medical Group. This group of 20-25 managers and supervisors got to hear firsthand what the health care experience is like for patients.

“What’s really cool is I have a multigenerational perspective of health care,” she says. “I can bring the opinions and experiences of myself, my husband and my in-laws who are in their 80s.”

The council is also helping to shape programs for patients with diabetes. Margie and other advisors will attend diabetes health education courses as “secret shoppers” to provide feedback to help improve the course. The council has also reviewed a new poster to help patients with diabetes get care for their feet. Angela Mitchell, who leads the Patient & Family Advisory Council program for Providence Medical Group, was so impressed by their feedback that she’s now working with the marketing team to develop a stamp of approval for future educational materials that have been reviewed by the council.

“Our patient & family advisors were eager to give their opinions to improve care,” says Angela. “The diabetes posters are currently being produced and will be in exam rooms very soon.”

And that’s not all the patient & family advisors are doing to improve communications. When the advisors found out about a little known telephone service that Providence patients can use to speak to a nurse after hours and on the weekends, they did research to find out why nobody knew about the service. They discovered that the service was inaccurately described on the Providence Health Plan website. The Providence team is now making sure the information is accurate so that patients will use the service.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first joined the council,” says Margie. “But now I know that I can just be myself and give my perspectives and it will help others.”