Hospitals are always seeking new ways to engage patients and improve the hospital experience. They have been using patient surveys and online reviews to gauge their success. Increasingly, they are also creating patient and family advisory councils. Among them is LifePoint Health, a Brentwood, Tennessee-based health system that operates 71 hospitals around the country.

Patient and family advisory councils are groups of patient representatives and caregivers who meet regularly with hospital staff to offer opinions and help improve performance and operations. A 2015 study in the journal BMJ Safety and Quality found such councils in 38 percent of hospitals—a number that is expected to grow. According to the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care, advisory councils lead to better understanding and cooperation among patients, families and staff, and they promote respectful partnerships between patients and healthcare providers.

Rusty Holman, M.D.

In 2014, LifePoint Health created its Patient and Family Advisory Board (PFAB). “The multitude of issues and trends in healthcare and community well-being mean that this board is relied upon more and more for strategic direction and patient advocacy,” says LifePoint Health’s Chief Medical Officer Rusty Holman, M.D. “For example, the growing presence of telehealth services represents a shift in traditional healthcare visits and presents an opportunity for patients and healthcare systems to discuss access, scope and experience of virtual interactions. LifePoint has also sought the advice and assistance from the PFAB in strategies to combat the national opioid crisis, and how best to involve patients and members of the community.”

The LifePoint PFAB is now convening regularly with the organization’s National Physician Advisory Board (NPAB) to address complex topics together. “We are joining these groups to delve into issues such as palliative care systems, improving patient experience in the outpatient setting, and how to promote patient and physician involvement in community coalitions,” Holman says. “The recommendations from our PFAB and NPAB groups prove to be invaluable additions to refining organizational strategy, improving quality and safety, and creating places where people choose to come for care.”

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