Leading the way in enhancing patient experience

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Four years after adopting the Patient and Family Centred Care model and making it a cornerstone of our strategic plan, the Patient Family Advisors at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) are still involved in every aspect of the hospital. It’s become a part of the culture here. Patient and Family Centred Care (or PFCC) is the provision of care that is respectful of, and responsive to, individual patient and family preferences, needs and values, and ensures that patient values guide all clinical decisions.

Patient Family Advisors are volunteers who have experienced care at TBRHSC within the preceding two years and want to be involved in improving the experience of other patients and families.

We now have 100 Patient Family Advisors, or PFAs, who are involved in everything we do, from program planning, policy and procedure development, hiring practices, teaching our new employees and learners to strategic planning, board quality and all of our program and service councils.

We have changed our culture, the way we think and the way we work, in order to provide patients and families with the best possible care. After receiving the Leading Practice award in Patient and Family Centred Care, from Accreditation Canada, the Gold Standard in healthcare, in 2011, Keith Taylor, volunteer co-chair of the PFA Advisory Council, later asked the team what made us the best in Canada in PFCC. They said nowhere else had they seen patients so integrated in the day-to-day operations of the hospital.

Now Accreditation Canada has asked Keith Taylor and I to partner with them to help develop their Client and Family Centred Care guidelines. Since 2011 we have also received a lot of calls, e-mails, visits and invitations from hospitals around the world asking us to assist them in their own journey toward patient and family centred care. I’m always happy to share information about our own PFCC history, terms of reference for a PFA Council and PFCC leadership.

This year a few of our PFAs were asked to talk about the role of the PFA with Bluewater Health. Afterward, they agreed to stay in contact as mentors for new recruits. Their Patient Advocate told me she would never have dreamed of saying she wants 100 PFAs if it hadn’t been for Thunder Bay. We’ve been doing a lot of work to diversify our membership, in terms of culture and age, in order to better reflect our patient population. The youngest PFA is 13 years old. He was nine when he started and we have PFAs in their 80s. A new recruitment brochure was recently developed by an Aboriginal placement student with the goal of attracting more Aboriginal PFAs.

We are always listening to our patients and families and they are driving very real change. Thanks to their input, we have seen changes to the visiting hours policy and the development of a family tour for children scheduled for surgery, for example, and we have seen how these partnerships are improving patient experience.

More recently, the hospital identified gaps when patients leave the hospital to return to their home environment. It became clear that a plan of understanding was necessary to ensure that discharged patients clearly understand their plan of care. In response, we launched a post-discharge callback trial, calling patients at home to check in and see if they understood their care plan and were adhering to it, and, if not, why not.

The information collected as a result of that trial was used to develop a patient discharge summary form. It includes questions to help patients become active participants in their care, regardless of which health care provider they’re dealing with: What is my main problem? What do I need to do? Why is it important for me to do this? We know that when patients become active participants in their healthcare, recovery is quicker and readmissions decrease.

PFAs were integral in the design of that form, making sure it contained the information they felt patients needed. The trial form went back to the PFAs several times. We wanted to know if it was meeting patients’ needs. We are still the only hospital in Canada to have been recognized with a Leading Practice award from Accreditation Canada for our adoption of PFCC. And while that is an honour, PFCC isn’t about gaining recognition. It is about the very best kind of healthcare. It is about caring together, to create the best experience for the patient, every time. It is about being Healthy Together.