Submitted photo: The Highpoint Health Patient & Family Advisory Council is comprised of, front row: Sheri Day, PFAC President; and Rose Gauck. Center row: Angela Scudder, RN, MSN, CENP, Highpoint Health Chief Nursing Officer; Rev. Debby Allen, M.Div., Highpoint Health Chaplain, Patient Advocate and PFAC Staff Liaison; Mary Jo Sloan; Carol Green and Nina Thueneman. Back row: Ricardo Horn, RN, BSN, Highpoint Health Director of Core Transition and Post Acute Services; Ken Cleeter; Cliff Copeland; Bob Northcutt and Jerry Gauck.  Not pictured is Stephanie Craig, RN, MSN, Highpoint Health Director of Quality and Risk Management.

Highpoint Health’s Patient & Family Advisory Council works to enhance patient, visitor experiences

In 2016, Highpoint Health initiated its Patient & Family Advisory Council to offer input and new ideas to help improve the patient and visitor experience.  

The volunteer group, comprised of community members, is overseen by Rev. Debby Allen, M.Div., Highpoint Health Chaplain, Patient Advocate and Staff Liaison for the council.

Its goals are to ensure that healthcare is patient-centered, bring patients’ concerns to healthcare leadership and improve patient safety and satisfaction.

Some of the PFAC’s suggestions have been simple, such as the recommendation to install an additional set of doors between the waiting room and the patient treatment area of the Emergency Department to make the areas more quiet.

Other ideas are more complex, involving research, study and the involvement of multiple departments and staff members.  One such assignment took nine months.  The PFAC’s project,

“Peer Rounding on 30 Day Readmitted Patients,” had council advisers meeting with returning patients and discussing with them their readiness for discharge.

“Because some members of our council have had personal experience with readmission, we believe they made a positive peer-to-peer connection with the patients,” explained Allen.

“We tracked if patients felt cared for during the peer rounding process, if they thought they were more prepared and capable when they were re-discharged, and if they needed to be readmitted a third time.

“Highpoint Health is one of only a few hospitals in the country to organize a PFAC and the only one in Indiana to complete the Health Research & Educational Trust/Hospital Improvement Innovation Network Patient & Family Engagement Fellowship Project in 2017,” Allen said.

Some projects the PFAC has accomplished in the past two years have been touring the various hospital units to evaluate them for safety, cleanliness and directional signage; making suggestions on improving patient and family comfort and patient privacy; and creating a documentation form for the Baker Intensive Care Unit to facilitate communication with families.

Other responsibilities involve outside organizations, such as assisting entitlement caseworkers and state navigators in an outreach program sponsored by the United Way; and participating in the Community Health Needs Assessment that the hospital conducts every three years for the Indiana State Department of Health.

In recent months, the PFAC worked with Ryan Morath, BSN, Highpoint Health Emergency Department Manager, to make the ED more comfortable and inviting for the patients and their families.  In addition to the closed doors, simple changes were made, including arranging chairs in a semi-circle rather than in straight rows and adding vending machines.

“Many times small changes can make a big difference,” Rev. Allen noted.

Members of the Council are President, Sheri Day, Moores Hill; Ken Cleeter, Aurora; Cliff Copeland, Greendale; Jerry and Rose Gauck, Milan; Carol Green, Aurora; Rev. Bob Northcutt, North Bend; Mary Jo Sloan, Aurora; and Nina Thueneman, Moores Hill.  

“Each person is recommended for participation in the PFAC for specific reasons, such as their own or their family’s experiences with hospitalization; their professional backgrounds and/or their involvement with the community,” explained Allen.  “Council advisers serve for two years and must possess good listening skills, have the ability to work in partnership with the other members and be able to appreciate different points of view.  Highpoint Health’s Patient & Family Advisory Council is busy, taking an active role in working to enhance the experience of the hospital’s patients and visitors.”

In addition to Allen, Highpoint Health staff members also serve on the council.  They are Stephanie Craig, RN, MSN, Director of Quality and Risk Management; Ricardo Horn, RN, BSN, Director of Core Transition and Post Acute Services; Angela Scudder, RN, MSN, CENP, Chief Nursing Officer; and Dawn Walcott, RN, BSN, Director of Patient Care Services.
PFAC meetings are held every other month, where they discuss the creation and implementation of goals.  Those earmarked for 2018-2019 include:
Developing stronger partnerships with and education of the hospital staff to enhance patient and family centered care;
 Learning to measure the outcomes and impact of PFAC activities in meaningful ways;
 Developing recruitment strategies to ensure that the PFAC better reflects the diversity of the community.

The Highpoint Health PFAC has partnered with the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care, based in Bethesda, Maryland.  

The IPFCC provides training, consulting and technical assistance to help organizations improve patient and family experience, safety and quality.

Allen and Copeland attended the national conference in Baltimore in June, where discussions focused on patient safety, risk management and how patient-centered care can be applied across the care continuum.

The PFAC can welcome a maximum of 20 community member to its group.  If you have the desire to help and believe you may be qualified to participate, call Allen at  812-537-8259 or 800/676-5572, ext. 8259, or email her at dallen@myhph.org.

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