Why and How to Include the Patient-Family Voice in a Medical Home

By Bonnie Thompson, CHIPRA Grant Family Leader – Massachusetts Family Voices (MFV)

nichqguideLast month, at a doctor’s visit, my teenage daughter and I were offered a patient experience survey to fill out. My daughter wanted to share her thoughts and happily answered the questions. I also was eager to answer questions and pass on what did and didn’t work for us during that visit.

My daughter said she likes when movies play in the waiting room and we both said we don’t like when wait times in the exam room are too long. She answered there were times when the doctor didn’t talk with her in a way she understood and I answered it was hard to schedule appointments sometimes. Our feelings about the visit went far beyond what her doctor did or didn’t say. It included the entire time we were there; from beginning to end, from checking in to how long we spend in the exam room, as well as the time we spent with the doctor.

Regardless of the how much or how often we receive care, most of us have feelings to share about our visits to a doctor’s office or health clinic. More doctors’ offices are asking patients and family caregivers to share their opinions and play an important role in changing how health care is delivered. With a shift to more patient- and family-centered care, sometimes known as medical home, there is a high value in patients, families, doctors and their staff working together to improve the delivery and experience of care for kids and their families.

Patient surveys can be a first step for involving patients and families in shaping the healthcare experience. I learned this firsthand through my work on the CHIPRA Massachusetts Medical Home Learning Collaborative, which invited families to share their healthcare experiences to help their child’s doctor’s office become a medical home. Thirteen doctors’ offices each invited from within their practice two “Family Health Partners” to join their quality improvement (QI) teams. Many practices made use of these family health partners in improvement activities such as discovery shopping, creating care teams and care planning tools.

While the project was wrapping up, we were eager to spread the lessons learned during the learning collaborative. Mass Family Voices at the Federation along with the National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ) created a Family Engagement Guide that provides doctor’s offices with guidelines on involving families in Quality Improvement activities. Along with assisting medical practices as they start working with Family Partners, this toolkit can help doctor’s offices continue to support and inspire the Family Health Partners they work with.

Imagine the impact that patients and the families could have, sharing what is important to them to improve their health care experience. I know my daughter was glad to have the chance to share her ideas.

You can find the Family Engagement Guide on the NICHQ website: http://www.nichq.org/resource/family-engagement-guide-role-family-health-partners-quality-improvement-within-pediatric. Share this guide with your child’s doctor and ask how you can become involved in quality improvement at their office.