Online Patient Advisory Groups Growing Movement in Healthcare
Aug 6, 2021
Sutter Health
People fill out a questionnaire form. Flat isometric vector illustration isolated on white background.

By Leslie Meiring and Liz Madison, Vitals contributors

The pandemic has taught healthcare providers valuable lessons in how technological advancements can change healthcare delivery. But what do patients think? Can patients embrace tech in similar ways to share their input and insights on this new era of healthcare and their experiences in it?

More healthcare organizations are exploring ways to improve how patients to share their feedback—and are using those tech avenues to do so.

The Value of the Patient Voice

According to research, health systems can provide care that is respectful and responsive to individual patient preferences by evaluating the patient experience along with other quality measures like safety and care delivery.

This year, Sutter Health launched a new virtual patient and family advisory community to gather feedback and insights from patients, their family members and caregivers to help understand patients’ expectations and experiences.

“Serving our patients and families goes beyond healing illnesses and injuries. It involves listening, understanding their needs and co-designing improvements together,” said Morgan Horwood, program manager for the patient and family advisory programs at Sutter Health. “We know that patients have innovative ideas on how to help improve the healthcare experiences that impact them most. We are focused on creating opportunities for them to amplify their voice so they can feel heard and valued.”

Modernized Thinking to Time-Honored Practice

Now, patient advisory councils are not new. Sutter Health’s original patient and family advisory program launched in 2016 and has expanded to 30 different locations and dedicates an average of more than 5,000 hours per year.

Participants in this new online advisory community will help shape the future with greater ease. The intent is to put an easy, flexible and time-efficient throughput in place—equaling five to 10 minutes a month—where advisors fill out focused topic surveys on a periodic basis. These online surveys may include asking for specific input on some of the fundamentals, such as scheduling an appointment online or improving the waiting room experience to see a doctor. They could also include feedback on patient safety and disease prevention education. Sutter Health has already received feedback about recent updates to their online patient portal, My Health Online.

The new format also increases the chances for new voices. The goal is to attract interest from a large and diverse pool of patients and family members to address the health experience across population groups. The new format also allows participants to concentrate on areas that are most meaningful to them, like women’s health, LGBTQ care, or hospice and home health, if they choose.

“By collaborating with our patients and families, we can incorporate their point of view in our processes and products, which speeds up our improvement process and ultimately results in a better outcome,” said Horwood.

Sutter patients, family members or patient caregivers who are interested in joining Sutter Health’s online patient advisory council can sign up to be a member.

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