Within health care organizations, such as Alberta Health Services (AHS), gathering ‘real-time’ patient experiences about the quality, safety and timeliness of care they received, their interactions with healthcare providers and their engagement in care decisions and transition planning, is ideal for identifying, implementing and evaluating the effectiveness of improvement initiatives. However, as we have discovered, this process requires dedicated human resources at the unit, program or site level, which is a challenge. Our innovation involves an unique approach to address the challenge. This involves the utilization of patient and family volunteers or advisors within AHS to (1) engage with unit staff and clinicians to examine existing patient data related to quality and safety concerns, (2) identify areas of care needing improvement, (3) co-design quality or safety improvement strategies and (4) collect, analyze and interpret ‘real-time’ patient/family experiences as outcome measures for improvement strategies. Although the main purpose for improvement strategies is to improve the overall in-hospital patient experience, we also explored what benefits there would be in having patient/family volunteers or advisors assist unit staff with collecting ‘real-time’ patient/family experience data as part of quality and safety improvement initiatives. An evaluation plan guides the measurement of not only patient experience indicators and outcomes but also processes (such as determining patient, Advisor and unit staff/clinician experiences with having Advisors engaged with unit staff and gathering patient experience data) and balances (such as any unforeseen implications for patients, Advisors, units or organization, which would need to be considered or addressed).
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