If you want to learn how to improve a health system, Paul Wellborn suggests you ask a patient.
In 2011, Christiana Care took a giant step forward in patient- and family-centered care, forming the Patient and Family Advisory Council at Wilmington Hospital, respectfully partnering with patients, their loved ones and staff in an innovative model designed to gather insights that can improve care.
Since then, there have been several significant milestones.
Christiana Hospital established a Patient and Family Advisory Council in 2013, including members with experiences to share from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Kidney Transplant Program and Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute.
In 2014, the Wilmington council became self-governing, with patient and family advisers assuming responsibility for the way the group operates.
The most recent milestone occurred in January, when the two groups got together for the first time.
Shawn Smith, MBA, vice president, Patient Experience, noted that patient satisfaction scores have been steadily improving, an accomplishment he attributes, in part, to the councils’ contributions.
“We know that a lot of that has to do with your powerful feedback,” Smith said.
Paul Wellborn became unexpectedly immersed in navigating various hospitals and health care facilities in 2004 when his son Matthew, only in his 20s, suffered a dissected aorta, a serious injury caused by blood leaking from the major artery carrying blood out of the heart.
“Throughout his treatment, we found many people who care,” Wellborn said. “But we also found instances when we had ideas of how Matthew could be better treated and it was hard getting someone to listen.” The experience motivated him to look for ways to get involved, and he became one of the first patient and family advisers at Christiana Care.
Wellborn is co-chair of the Wilmington council.
“We want to collaborate and we want to contribute,” he said. Patient and family advisers collaborate with staff to shape policies, facilities design and programs.
The other co-chair is Rae Burton, a founding member of the group. She became a passionate patient advocate while shepherding her husband through eight different facilities after he developed a healthcare-associated infection after heart surgery.
“Through the Patient and Family Advisory Council, I got to turn something bitter into something positive,” she said. Council members commit to volunteering for at least two hours each month. They also complete Christiana Care volunteer training.
Patricia Hoge, a member of the Christiana Hospital council, became interested in the group when her husband was a cancer patient.
“Through the council, we can provide input on a brochure or modifying a policy. Our discussions also help us to identify issues that need attention,” she said. “By serving as partners with the staff, we are making a difference. ”
Photo gallery: Advisory Council Celebration
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