To get a balanced perspective on any issue, including health care, it’s helpful to view issues through fresh eyes. Palomar Health is confident that its Patient and Family Advisor Council will create a more insightful perspective by integrating the patient voice into health-care practices.
The Patient and Family Advisor Council
Composed of former patients or family members of patients, the council helps bring the viewpoints of patients and families directly into the planning, delivery and evaluation of care, explains Tina Pope, manager of Service Excellence at Palomar Health.
“A patient advisor has to be someone who appreciates who we are and sees there are opportunities to improve,” Pope says. “They must want to serve, give back and be our partners here at Palomar Health. We want their voice to help improve the patient experience.”
One such advisor is Valley Center resident Judy Casillas, who had triple bypass surgery at Palomar Medical Center Escondido last March. It was during that time that the hospital staff got to appreciate her outgoing personality and Pope realized she’d be a great addition to the patient advisor team.
“At our first meeting, I felt overwhelmed because there were all these doctors and nurses there and I felt like ‘why would they care what I think?’” Casillas says with a laugh. “But they really seemed to want to hear what I said. They really did care.” The Patient and Family Advisor Council provides input on how to improve Palomar Health policies and care practices. By offering feedback about their hospital stay, they let hospital staff know what went well and where there are opportunities to improve.
“They help us develop priorities and make improvements based on patient- and family-identified needs rather than on our own professional assumptions,” Pope says. “They help us come up with solutions that clinicians and staff may not have considered.”
One safety suggestion that Casillas advocated for was to post a bedside sign or picture reminding surgery patients not to get up and walk unassisted. This came from her experience as a patient.
“I made the mistake of trying to get up and walk on my own. They had told me not to do that when I was brought in from surgery, but I was groggy and didn’t remember,” she says. “I think it would be helpful to have some kind of a visual reminder after we wake up.”
There are currently 10 patient/family advisors on the council, which serve all three campuses, with two more advisors to be added for 2015. The current council is composed of two men and eight women ranging in age from their early 30s to early 70s. The group represents the Latino, Native American and Caucasian communities. Pope hopes to add even more diversity to the council in the near future.
Keeping The Patient In Mind
The advisors serve on hospital committees and help develop Palomar Health informational brochures, written with the patient and family, not the clinician, in mind. Advisors do not need any special qualifications to serve on the council other than having experienced care at Palomar Health. However, there are some necessary personal skills, including being open-minded, able to listen and share opinions respectfully. Palomar Health provides any training needed.
“You need to be able to voice your opinion, but also hear all sides of an issue. You have to (realize) it’s not just about you,” Casillas says. “Patients don’t want to have a bad experience, they just want to get well. If we can suggest things to help avoid some little problems, it will make things better for everybody.”
For more information, or to apply to serve on the Patient and Family Advisor Council, please contact Tina Pope at Tina.Pope@PalomarHealth.org.