Medical errors cause nearly 400,000 deaths annually and are the third leading cause of death in the US, second to heart disease and cancer. In fact, 10 percent of all U.S. deaths are now due to medical errors. Consequently, improving outcomes, reducing medical errors, and increasing patient safety has been a major focus for public policy and healthcare systems across the nation.
Research has shown that patients who are actively involved in their health care tend to have better outcomes, fewer hospital admissions, reduced medical errors, fewer safety events, increased patient satisfaction scores, and lower costs. In fact, patient and family centered care (PFCC) has been considered to be a key strategy for healthcare improvement.
A report from the North Carolina Institute of Medicine reviewed best practices and strategies for increasing patient and family engagement in multiple healthcare settings. They developed a set of recommendations regarding patient and family engagement and improving the health of patients throughout healthcare systems in North Carolina. Below is a summarization of their findings:
- Patient and Family Preparation
In order to increase patient and family engagement, it is important to provide them with the skills and education to be partners in their own care. This requires a collaborative effort from payers, state, community, and faith-based organizations, to create effective tools for training and education.
- Clinician and Leadership Preparation
Healthcare providers should be taught skills on providing patient and family-centered care. They should also be educated on how to engage patients and families in their care. Health professional licensing boards should consider incorporating concepts for patient- and family-centered care as a core competency, and for ongoing certification requirements.
- Care and System Redesign
Patient and family engagement should be an organizational goal for all healthcare organizations. In addition to the implementation of strategies to enhance patient and family engagement, it is also necessary to establish policies and procedures that promote patient and family engagement in every aspect of their care experience.
- Organizational Partnership
Healthcare organizations should appoint patients or family members to boards and advisory committees within their organizations. In addition, patient and family advisory councils (PFACs) should be implemented to provide input into operations and governance.
- Measurement, Research, Transparency, and Accountability
Patient and family engagement measures should be collected, measured, and disseminated in healthcare systems and ambulatory settings. Information on services, cost, and quality should be easily accessible to consumers in print and electronic formats, and payers should provide patients with easy to understand information on providers, procedures, costs, quality, and safety.
- Legislation, Regulation, and Partnership in Public Policy
Payers should consider implementing health plans and policies that support patient and family engagement. Including new payment options, developing member advisory committees, and providing more accessible information to consumers.
Meaningful patient and family engagement will require a shift from the traditional culture of healthcare. Although this may be a significant undertaking, with the right leadership, collaboration, and perseverance, health systems can create patient and family centered cultures, that are focused on improving patient experience, bettering quality of care, and decreasing cost.