What are some ways consumers can help improve health care?

Leadership positions and health care activism are a good start

As the end users of health care, consumers are in a unique position to understand what improvements are needed—and often how best to implement them. Consumers across the nation are busy helping AF4Q communities improve health care quality. The way they’re doing this is taking many different forms.
 
Consumers can improve health care by taking an active role in managing their health.  “Our Pathways to Health” is a six-week workshop in California that teaches chronic disease patients and caregivers how to make better health care decisions and partner with providers to improve self-care. Workshop alumni are hospitalized less, seek fewer doctor appointments, and save $4 for every $1 they spend in care.
 
Putting consumers into positions of authority helps ensure care and information are patient centered. Massachusetts Health Quality Partners (MHQP) is a broad coalition working to improve health care. Their Patient and Public Engagement Council (PPEC) fully integrates consumers into the leadership structure.
 
The council offers a place where I can contribute my experience as a patient [to create] a more patient-centric system of care.
Rosalind Joffe, PPEC co-chair and patient
 
In a partnership with Consumer Reports to develop a rating of patient experiences with primary care physicians, the PPEC helped underscore the value of displaying results in a consumer-friendly way. The PPEC also consults on a new MHQP web site that helps consumers make decisions based on health care quality data.
 
The Patient Family Leadership Team in Maine relies on consumer members to help ensure that patient-centered medical homes meet patient and family needs. Consumers have provided important feedback to help improve areas such as wait time, phone systems, the referral and appointment processes, and more.
 
Consumer representatives help in a multitude of other ways, including: serving on quality improvement teams, participating in interviews and meetings with individual patients, reviewing web sites and other materials, and more.