The COVID-19 pandemic was highly disruptive to healthcare and negatively affected healthcare worker and patient experience on multiple levels. Patient Family Advisors serve an important role in partnering with health systems to improve patient experience, yet the work of many volunteer programs were interrupted by the onset of the pandemic, at a time when integrating patient voice into care delivery was sorely needed. This case study presents one health system’s experience adapting a system-wide Patient Family Advisory program in the setting of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the transition to a virtual format and increased flexibility in how Patient Family Advisors engage with staff projects. Despite challenges, we were able to maintain meaningful Patient Family Advisory program work throughout the first two years of the pandemic, with at least fifteen Patient Family Advisor project activities each six months. We focused on three primary areas: early patient engagement, increasing visibility of patient engagement, and increasing the effectiveness of our Patient Family Advisors. Adaptation to virtual meetings and adding project-based embedments in addition to traditional council models also allowed the recruitment of new, diverse PFA membership. Commitment to patient engagement and co-design can be challenging but is of particular importance during times of stress for health systems. Flexibility in methods to engage and utilize Patient Family Advisors are needed to maintain success. Increasing agency of Patient Family Advisors will drive meaningful engagement for both volunteers and staff.
This article is associated with the Patient, Family & Community Engagement lens of The Beryl Institute Experience Framework (https://www.theberylinstitute.org/ExperienceFramework).
Rehder KJ, Haney S, Freeman J, West A. Strengthening patient-family engagement amidst a pandemic: Lessons learned and paths forward. Patient Experience Journal. 2023; 10(1):124-130. doi: 10.35680/2372-0247.1760.
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