Five Tips for Better Patient and Family Engagement

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Person and Family Engagement (PFE) Strategy aims to expand the awareness and practice of person and family engagement among a wide variety of stakeholders in the health care community. To support the PFE Strategy, the Quality Improvement Organization (QIO) Program’s Quality Innovation Network National Coordinating Center (QIN NCC) has compiled five tips for forging stronger relationships with patients and their families.

1. Co-Design Quality Improvement Initiatives

One way to engage patients and families is to involve them in designing and implementing health care quality improvement initiatives.

In the past, Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Organizations (QIN-QIOs) typically engaged patients at the end of an initiative to see how well they thought it worked. Now it’s becoming more and more common for QIN-QIOs to bring patients and their families to the table early in the process to provide input into all aspects of an initiative. This helps ensure that the initiatives are patient-centric and provide the best outcomes.

2. Establish Active Patient and Family Advisory Councils

Patient and family advisory councils give voice to patients and their families by allowing them to relay their personal perspectives and experiences. This kind of direct, first-hand information can help guide health care quality improvement and patient engagement efforts.

Many QIN-QIOs have Medicare Beneficiary and Family Advisory Councils (BFAC) that serve this purpose. Currently, there are 21 councils and upwards of 180 advisors across the QIN-QIO community. Medicare beneficiaries, patients and family members serve on a variety of those groups and councils, all of which support the ongoing work of QIN-QIOs.

3. Organize Community-Based Classes

Engaging patients and their families through focused classes tailored to specific health conditions can help raise awareness and engage all stakeholders in the health care quality improvement process.

For example, Medicare beneficiaries can participate in CMS’ Everyone with Diabetes Counts program, which involves Diabetes Self-Management Education (DSME) classes held at convenient locations in communities nationwide. Besides helping beneficiaries learn how to manage their conditions, community-based classes enable them to build beneficial social connections with other beneficiaries and their families.

4. Invite Patient Participation in Local LANs

Learning and Action Networks (LANs) are groups of health care practitioners, providers, stakeholders and citizens who come together for routine peer-to-peer learning and solution sharing. Key to their mission is including patients and families who can share their unique perspectives and experiences.

The QIO Program holds routine LAN events on topics like medication safety and heart health, and opens many of the events to beneficiaries.

Learn more about LANs in the video here

5. Make Health Resources Easy to Understand 

Health care resources, such as brochures and websites, need to be easy to understand and navigate for patients and their families, so they can be put into action. Patients can play a key role in helping develop better, more useful resources.

QIN-QIOs are doing this by having Medicare Beneficiary Advisors review materials intended for public audiences for readability, engagement and calls to action, and working with patients to gather feedback that can be incorporated into the final product.