QI Tips: Is Your Practice Ready for Family Health Partners?

QI Tips: Family Health PartnersPatient- and family-centered medical homes (also known as PFCMHs) encourage a cooperative partnership between doctors, nurses, other medical staff and patients and families to provide the best care possible for children.

One way for pediatric practices to demonstrate patient-centered care is to consider families as experts and invite them to assist with evaluating, planning and improving a practice. Informed by their experience as caregivers and consumers, Family Health Partners (as they are sometimes called) provide valuable family perspective to pediatric providers and the healthcare team.

Before recruiting Family Health Partners, it’s helpful to assess the practice’s readiness to determine what resources are available and to identify areas in need of further development. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Does everyone at your practice believe that patients’ and families’ perspectives are as important as their own when it comes to how the practice is run?
  • Do you believe that engaging families in quality improvement activities enables you to access patients’ and families’ perspectives in unique and valuable ways?
  • Do you have staff members who are excited about family leadership and willing to contribute their time and efforts to the partnership?
  • Does your practice have sufficient and realistic financial and personnel resources to dedicate to this effort?
  • Do you have families who want to provide feedback and ideas? Do you believe this will be a useful forum for engaging with them?
  • Are you open to having patients with a variety of viewpoints and cultural backgrounds participate?

If the answer is yes to most of these questions, the practice is probably ready to start including Family Health Partners. If the practice is not quite there yet, here are some initial steps to take to create opportunities for family engagement with limited commitment:

  • Invite a successful team of medical home provider-family partners to speak at a staff meeting (identify these partners through an affiliated health organization or professional network).
  • Experiment with discovery shopping (see sidebar), using a family within the practice to walk through the patient experience and present their perspective at a staff meeting.
  • Highlight areas in need of improvement and correlate them to quality measures used in your practice such as a patient experience survey or Medical Home Index.

 Practices transforming to a patient- and family-centered medical home need to acknowledge that change takes time. A practice's staff may need to see firsthand that families can be useful and effective quality improvement partners before they are ready to give their support.


Discovery Shopping

Discovery shopping is a great way to begin to engage families in the medical home transformation. The goal of discovery shopping is to deeply understand the patient experience and to identify areas for improvement within a practice by completely replicating an office visit. A discovery shopping team includes:

  • A child or adolescent (acting as the patient)
  • The child’s parent (acting as the parent or self)
  • A practice staff member (acting as family)

Discovery shoppers should:

  • Go through all the steps of an appointment, including driving to the clinic, if applicable.
  • Take photos and make notes of what they see, hear and smell.
  • Record what the experience is like: Where are there delays or bottlenecks? What makes sense and what doesn't?