Your doctor’s office wants your input on how to provide the best possible experience for you. Really, it does.
You are probably familiar with the patient satisfaction surveys that are sent out after most office visits. These surveys are taken very seriously and, because they are standardized, allow your doctor’s office to measure how well it is doing compared with other practices locally and nationally. Many practices have taken this a step further, and may offer you a seat at the table on a committee that meets regularly to discuss ways to improve practice operations. It is called a patient-family advisory council, or PFAC.
PFACs have been around for many years, but have gained popularity now that the voice of the consumer in health care is gaining influence. These groups help to ensure that the patient and family voice not only is heard, but also is integrated into the process of generating and implementing clinical practice improvement ideas. PFACs may address issues such as communication with patients and physical improvements to patient space, along with policies on wait times and late arrivals.
In our practice, PFAC members have been invaluable. They helped us find better ways of keeping patients aware of our office policies and improve the quality of our messaging. One committee member with severe arthritis made us aware of the difficulty that she and other arthritic patients have getting in and out of chairs with seats that are too low to the ground. This actually discouraged her from coming in for routine health-maintenance visits. We are now planning to provide higher chairs for these patients.
PFACs are helping to foster a more transparent collaboration between medical offices and the members of the communities that they serve. Far from being gripe sessions, PFAC meetings are opportunities to share views and enlighten others with a shared goal of improving the quality-of-care experience.
Members should be able to listen well and show respect for the views of others. They must be comfortable interacting with many different kinds of people. A PFAC may be a relatively new venture for many practices, and it is best to view it as a work in progress. Meeting intervals may vary from monthly to quarterly, and efforts should be made to achieve consensus on the best meeting time and length.
If you decide to join a PFAC, be sure to approach this with a solid commitment to attend the majority of sessions. You will be an important part of the change, and your doctor’s office will need to rely on your regular input and follow-through.
If you are interested in joining a PFAC, begin by contacting your doctor’s office manager to find out whether there is an operating PFAC, and whether it is recruiting new members. No PFAC? Ask whether your doctor’s practice is interested in creating one. You may be the spark it has been waiting for.
Hospital-based PFACs may offer another opportunity to participate if you do not find one at your outpatient doctor’s office site. Your voice matters in the way medical practices are evolving. They are there to serve you, after all.