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Patient-family centered care

Patient-family centered care
By Dennis McGowan

Do you remember when the family doctor made house calls? Do you remember when people were once admitted as inpatients in the hospital for “a rest”?  It may seem like ancient history, particularly when compared to the current systems for the delivery of health care, but it was only one or two generations ago. 

Dennis McGowan Chairman, EMC Patient-Family  Advisory Committee
Additionally, the insurance that paid for health care was different then; typically offered by businesses as an employee benefit and often consisting of a comprehensive policy with riders that covered all, or almost all, of the bills, with little to no out-of-pocket costs.

While this model was once common across the country, and was understood to be the way in which health care was delivered and reimbursed, it also carried a few side effects that, until fairly recently, were pretty much invisible to most people.  When Doctor Mike, a real physician in the 1960’s, would accept a quick lunch in exchange for a house call, the family was completely unaware of the actual cost of the visit.  When an admission to the hospital for an injury or illness required a multi-day stay, there was no expectation that the patient, or any family members, knew anything at all about health care, and they were expected to follow “doctor’s orders” without question, comment or argument.

That was then, and this is now!  House calls are virtually extinct, bills for medical care are a real part of household budgets, and hospitals are no longer white-tiled institutions with the scent of disinfectant staffed by medical professionals who dictate every pill and procedure.  Patients and their families are engaged in their own care and have expectations over and above the original goal of getting well.  The new model for health care includes assuring patients and families that the hospital appreciates and expects their involvement in their care and that the expectations they bring are valid and, wherever possible, will be met. This partnership is essential in meeting the healthcare needs of the patient and community. In addition, hospitals recognize that patients are also consumers, and they have choices regarding where they go to obtain the care they need.  This new understanding is taking root in hospitals across the country, and nowhere is it more evident as an emerging health care model than at Eastside Medical Center (EMC) in Snellville, Georgia.

Stuart-Downs 190EMC has undertaken an initiative to make hospital visits, whether for emergencies, out-patient surgeries or inpatient care, as safe, effective and as positive as possible.  This focus on Patient-Family Centered Care includes a number of elements that contribute to a successful patient experience during the hospitalization. 

Pictured Right: Stuart Downs Chief Nursing Officer Eastside Medical Center

First and foremost is patient health.  This includes not only expected remedies for the conditions that bring patients to the hospital, but also a determined effort to keep patients safe and eliminate the potential for negative outcomes while in the hospital.  Ensuring a safe hospitalization involves a cultural commitment by every EMC staff member to ensure rigorous compliance with proven, effective safety measures.  In addition to patient safety, every EMC employee is focused on patient satisfaction and the delivery of the finest in quality care to those who chose Eastside as their provider of choice.  In order to meet these goals Eastside Medical Center has organized a Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC), a team of patients, family members and hospital staff, whose goal is to turn real life perspectives and experiences into high quality customer-centered care.  The work of the PFAC provides EMC administration the voice of the patient including input on issues that influence both outcomes and patient satisfaction, paving the way for an even better experience for patients in the future.

PFAC-pic3 440

Jackie Alt, Assistant Chief Nursing Officer, shares a success story at the monthly PFAC meeting. Left to right are: Denise Flook, Armando Nahum, Joyce Reid, Cathy Karlsen, Shibu Cherian, Beverly Fuller, Kathy Brown, Krystal Ellis and Jackie Alt.
This PFAC is responsible for examining a broad variety of issues, from things as simple as signage or lighting improvement to more complex policy considerations that arise either directly from the experiences of the PFAC members or from daily feedback provided by patients, families, physicians, and employees.  The PFAC then channels that information and its recommendations to administration in an effort to implement changes based on valued participation by the consumers of the care that the medical center delivers.

The most recent PFAC meeting took place on September 16th and was attended by a representative of the Georgia Hospital Association who thanked the group for its innovative work.  In addition, Armando Nahum, nationally known Patient Safety Advocate from the SafeCare Campaign and co-developer of a CMS recognized model for Patient and Family Advisory Councils presented. Denise Flook, EMC’s Chief Patient Safety Officer addressed the Council meeting and reiterated the Medical Center’s commitment to changing a “What’s the matter” problem solving model to one based on the goal of delivering “What matters to you.”  Chief Nursing Officer Stuart Downs related a comment from an out of state patient who characterized the delivery of their care as “Everything going on about me is going on without me.”   He challenged the Council to make that kind of impression permanently obsolete.  

The Council is composed of four prior patients or family members and four EMC staff members, all volunteers.  Additional patient and staff representatives will be added in 2015 to complete the council membership to include 6 patient and 6 staff members.  A patient representative recruitment effort is underway and interested volunteers are encouraged to contact Denise Flook at  

The PFAC recognizes that progress and improvement will be incremental, starting with those issues that can be readily addressed and solutions that can be implemented most easily,  working up to more complex questions that involve collaboration and partnership with the community that Eastside Medical Center serves.  Patients and families have a new level of assurance that everything that happens to them at EMC, happens with them!

Dennis McGowan
Chairman, EMC Patient-Family 
Advisory Committee