Ohio Hospital Creates Patient, Family Experience Program

MetroHealth established the Office of Patient Experience in 2013 and a year later created a Patient and Family Advisor program to provide a platform for patients and their families to share their experiences. “You can talk about patient-centered care, but that’s an empty phrase until you sit down and talk to patients and their families, listen to what they have to say and fashion your care around their needs not yours,” said Akram Boutros, MD, FACHE, president and chief executive officer, MetroHealth. The PFA program has become a valued part of the MetroHealth System culture and helps guide the system’s patient-family-centered care approach.

“We challenged ourselves by using patients on the steering committee to create the Patient and Family Advisor Program,” says Jennifer Lastic, supervisor, Patient Experience. “This was the first time employees were paired with patients as decision-makers.” The initial PFAs on the steering committee remain active contributors.

The process leading to the launch of the PFA Program was met with some challenges related to system-wide implementation and PFA recruitment. Through the dedicated efforts of a multi-disciplinary steering committee, marketing materials were created and educational presentations were made to elevate awareness of the new program and gain buy-in from employees.

Additionally, a PFA training curriculum was developed and informational sessions were open to patients and families considering volunteer involvement. While identifying volunteers to join the PFA Program, the steering committee understood the importance of creating a high performing team.
An interview process was implemented to assess skills of potential members and learn about their experiences at MetroHealth. Improvements could only be made by onboarding those who have had diverse experiences, and who were willing to make suggestions to contribute in a meaningful way.

Today, PFAs are actively engaged, and continue to make positive changes which are enacted at MetroHealth. The impact can be seen and felt by all employees, other patients and family members, as well as members of the greater community. PFAs have collaborated on projects related to patient safety, quality, operations and environmental design.
The PFA Program at MetroHealth is unique because PFAs serve on committees and projects, and sit alongside employees where their critical insight is used to guide decision-making. The program is robust and has expanded to the development of a Patient and Family Advisor Council, and the induction of five PFAs who serve on leaders’ boards. Specifically, there is PFA representation on the following Board of Trustee committees: Patient Experience, Inclusion and Diversity and Quality.

“I appreciate the opportunity to share my input as a patient amongst leaders, and feel like a valued part of the team,” says Floyd Peters, PFA, who is also serving on the PFAC and the Inclusion and Diversity Committee of the Board of Trustees. By having PFAs involved in all levels of MetroHealth, an importance is placed upon the input of those who have a greater understanding as to what it means to receive exceptional and compassionate care.

Susan Kiedio, PFA, serves on the PFAC and the Quality Committee of the Board of Trustees. “The reason I am involved as a Patient and Family Advisor at MetroHealth is because they listen and make changes,” she says. “Quality and safety took on a new meaning to me.” An example of a success story from Susan’s involvement is the development of the Condition Help Hotline, a phone number which is now posted in all patient rooms. Patients and family members can call this number to access a rapid response team if they have concerns related to their care plan, a change in their health condition, or if they feel they are not being heard. 

“Our advisors have made MetroHealth and all 330,000 of our patients better. They’re truly a gift,” says Dr. Boutros. The Patient and Family Advisor Program at MetroHealth System is highly regarded, and has received recognition from The Beryl Institute, as well as the Institute for Patient-and Family-Centered Care. Both institutions are highly respected for their commitment to the advancement of service excellence as it relates to improved communications between patients, families and health care providers.

The MetroHealth System is an integrated essential health system and teaching facility with an acute care hospital housing Northeast Ohio’s only verified Level I Adult Trauma Center and Burn Center. MetroHealth operates by its core values of service to others, teamwork, accountability, respect, inclusion and diversity and quest for excellence.