Straight from the Horse’s Mouth: Another Way to Improve the Patient Experience

We want patients to be engaged. We want patients to improve their health. We want better quality care for patients. What else can we do to get there? Why not ask the patients what they think, and use their feedback to make change?

Over the past few months, AF4Q – South Central PA has asked seven local primary care practices to participate in the new Patient Partner Program.Using LEAN, a familiar concept to the manufacturing industry, the program is helping practices improve efficiency, morale and ultimately patient care. But, this specific initiative doesn’t just involve providers; it also involves the patients. Selected patients are asked to participate in the one-year commitment and offer their perspective.

“Through other initiatives, like the Planned Care Collaborative, practices have been using lean to identify wasteful steps that are occurring during their day-to-day routines. Just like with anything, when habits form, routine occurs, and a lot of medical staff are not aware of the waste that is happening. Combining LEAN processes with the patients’ perspectives can help practices start fresh and apply self-management techniques,” stated Rush Gross, Planned Care Coordinator for Aligning Forces for Quality.

According to Rush, the patients and practices will work on improving self-management techniques, and through this the patient learns how to become a partner within their care.

“Providers can lead patients down the path of healthy living (i.e. diet and exercise), but it takes patient ownership. In other words, the patient has to really want to change their lifestyle in order to improve their diabetic health. Up to this point, we’ve been missing the direct feedback from a patient. This program will allow patients to teach practices that their way of communicating, or the brochure in the waiting room, is easy to understand and encourages a change in behavior. Their input will help guide a practice down the path of improved communications, and diabetes outcomes such as lower blood pressure, control of A1C levels and an increase in monofilament testing,” Rush added.

Each of the seven practices nominates a patient with diabetes, or a caregiver for someone who is diabetic, to join the team. Together, the team will work with business and health coaches to achieve the goals they establish at the start of the program.

Prior to the first meeting, Rush along with Kathy Hutcheson, Patient Partners Coordinator meet with the providers and patients separately to establish the expectations and guidelines. Through a face-to-face training, patients also receive an overview of what LEAN is, what quality care means, what role health literacy plays, and the importance of communication. The patients are also given a guide with common terms they may hear from the health care professionals.

According to Kathy, when some of the patients were asked to participate, they were very excited that their doctor thought of them. A lot of the patients are joining in because they see problems in health care, and want to make a difference.
Furthermore, with the patients involved, the culture of the practice changes, and helps improve services that will impact the entire community. It offers a different perspective and impacts the decision making process.

“It’s not up to one selected group like doctors to fix health care. It’s up to everyone, including the patient. We want consumer engagement, and this is a great way to do just that. Not only will the patients become more engaged, but they’ll also become more empowered, better communicators, and influencers. Through this experience, they’ll be able to educate their friends, family members, and so on,” stated Kathy.

If you’re interested in becoming a patient partner, or you’re with a practice that wants to get involved, contact Kathy Hutcheson via email ( or by calling 717-309-4671.

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