It is generally agreed that patient- and family-centered care represents a much-needed cultural shift in contemporary healthcare delivery. However, there is uncertainty regarding the most appropriate approach to obtaining the opinions of those being cared for, and acting on their feedback. One strategy that hospitals have adopted is to establish patient and family advisory councils (PFACs) whose role is to help identify gaps in care or “blind spots” that are not being recognized as problematic by the interdisciplinary cancer care team.
In the state of Massachusetts, PFACs are mandated. Yet nationally, only 30% of hospitals report using this resource to improve care.1 A recent exemplar using this methodology was published by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC).1 Based on their experience with PFACs, they identified three key areas within the patient experience at their institution that required intervention: becoming a new patient, transitioning from active treatment to monitoring, and transitioning from hospital-based care to end-of-life care.
Acknowledging this feedback, MSKCC reported on their implementation of quality improvement projects to address these phenomena. The resulting benefits to patients include:
- Expanded availability of peer support;
- Orientation videos for new patients;
- An “insider’s guide” to receiving care at MSKCC;
- Formal identification and implementation of best practices in end-of-life care; and,
- Interventions with ambulatory clinics to address patient concerns about the financial toxicity of cancer care.
By soliciting the voices of our patient and family consumers, healthcare providers gain a powerful tool to identify and act on the unattended needs of those entrusted to our care. This should be an ongoing, rather than episodic or arbitrary, aspect of our practice.
1. Niehaus K. Using a patient and family advisory council as a mechanism to hear the patient’s voice. J Oncol Pract. 2017;13:509-11.