Provide ongoing support to consumers in the form of training, connection to peers, and check-ins, and be clear about who has responsibility for providing support. Make sure training, ongoing professional development, support, and follow-up with consumers is someone’s responsibility. As the adage says, “If it’s ‘everybody’s job,’ it’s nobody’s job.” These responsibilities may be shared, enhanced through mentor relationships, etc., but each role should be clear. In many Alliances, consumer leadership team members know which Alliance staff person to contact in case of questions. At the practice level, a designated patient advisor coordinator (often an individual with other responsibilities) serves as primary contact.
Develop, evaluate, and modify processes for training and support. Build on existing tools to develop a set of onboarding materials and a process and timeline for orienting, training, ongoing professional development, and checking in. Conduct surveys of consumer representatives and exit interviews of those who end their involvement. Modify practices accordingly.
Connect consumers with one another, both locally and nationally. Although integrating consumers into local governance structures is critical, consumers also benefit from meeting to support and learn from one another. Many Alliances convene a Consumer Advisory Council, and quality improvement efforts in which consumers are engaged benefit from convening patient advisors. In addition, the NPO has facilitated multiple opportunities for cross-regional collaborative sharing (e.g., Consumer Engagement Leadership Consortium calls, less-structured open discussion calls, Alliance peer-to-peer visits, and in-person consumer meetings before the start of national meetings), thereby expanding consumers’ network of learning and support.