Strong patient and family partnerships readies ARH for new Ontario Health Teams

The Patient Family Council

At just the right time in her life, Laura Young read the newspaper article calling for volunteers to join the Arnprior Regional Health’s Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC).

Laura grew up in Arnprior and Arnprior Regional Health (ARH) is where she regularly visited for her own or her family members’ routine medical appointments. In more recent years, she became the family member of three loved ones – her father, mother, and sister-in-law – who came to ARH for emergency care, complex health issues, terminal illness, or an inpatient stay.

“You see the hospital through a different lens when your loved one is a patient,” said Laura, PFAC member. “I hope by being involved with PFAC I can help make the Hospital an even more positive experience for patients and their families.”

ARH has evolved beyond the approach of engaging patients, families, residents and clients by coming to them for input regarding new policies, programs or initiatives. Today, they are involved from the beginning to consult and help guide the direction of new projects.

“We have true engagement, which means we have patients, families, residents and clients at each of the decision-making tables to provide information, ideas, insights – they’re part of the team,” said Eric Hanna, President and CEO, ARH.

“I’ve seen the difference this level of engagement makes. If we don’t have patients, families, residents or clients at the table, we may be focused on solving a problem that patients, for example, don’t believe is a problem. This approach will become even more important as we form a high-performing Ontario Health Team (OHT).”

Improving the patient and family experience

The formal councils that help facilitate engagement are the Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC), The Grove’s Family Council and the Grove’s Resident Council. ARH also populates working committees with patients and family members – previously, these were typically attended by staff only.

“At the committee meetings, PFAC members feel welcome by staff and that their role is valued – they contribute ideas and share their opinions,” said Lynda Welch, PFAC Chair, whose husband has been an ARH patient. “The Hospital has a huge investment in the voice of PFAC – it’s embedded in its vision, mission and values.”

One example of PFAC’s role is the updated patient handbook.

“The Hospital team listened to our ideas and vision to create something more positive, functional and focus the content on the patients who are in the hospital and will be discharged home,” said Laura, who along with PFAC members Maggie Kerkhoff and Andrew Nellesyn formed the patient handbook subcommittee and provided a rough framework of what to include and not include in the new handbook.

“When it was time for my father to go home from the hospital, I didn’t know anything about how to access available resources – as a family member it was confusing and challenging to help my dad with deciding what supports would make the most sense for him,” said Laura. “This experience motivated me to get involved in the handbook and influenced what the content needed to be.”

The new handbook is complete and will be launched in 2020.

Helping create a better home for residents

The Grove’s Family Council is open to all residents’ family members and comes together to improve the residents’ quality of life.

The Family Council offers a unique perspective and is involved in the decision-making process for the assessment, implementation and evaluation phases of new initiatives, policies and projects.

There is great value in involving families in decision-making,” said Marilyn Colton, Chair of the Family Council and whose brother-in-law is a Grove resident. “At our recent meeting, we discussed and supported the idea of introducing a new closure service on a death of a resident that will help promote grieving among other residents, families and staff.”

The Family Council has also been integral to the discussions and assessment of the new resident-directed care model and will be engaged through the design consultations for the new Grove.

Engagement sets the right stage for Ontario Health Teams

True patient and family engagement are vital to the success of the new Ontario Health Teams.

Julie Drury, Chair, Minister’s Patient and Family Advisory Council, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care said: “Patients, families and caregivers have a unique knowledge about the healthcare system based on their lived experience. Their understanding of healthcare system challenges, barriers, opportunities and solutions is essential to ensuring an efficient and effective approach to healthcare transformation and the functioning of Ontario Health Teams.”

Hanna adds: “The ARH approach and commitment to patient, family, resident and client engagement is an asset we will leverage as we develop an OHT that will lead the healthcare transformation across the province.”

ARH is recruiting volunteers to join the Patient Family Advisory Council. Please contact [email protected] for more details.