Volunteers assist WellSpan practices and departments
Rev. Kenneth Newman
The Patient Partner Program, an initiative of Aligning Forces for Quality --South Central Pa. (AF4Q-SCPA) is making a difference in the care of patients.
“Patient partners become part of a practice’s quality improvement team,” said Kathy Hutcheson, consumer engagement coordinator. “Their role is to provide the patient’s perspective.”
Patient partners attend monthly staff meetings, participate in conference calls, review quality data and swap ideas.
More than 55 patient partners assist WellSpan practices and departments.
The Rev. Kenneth Newman began participating as a patient partner at the York Hospital Community Health Center in 2012.
He and another patient partner worked diligently with the practice to implement many changes to improve the patient experience and increase engagement.
The patient partners advocated for a new phone system that provides more customized options and decreases hold times, two common patient concerns.
The system was installed, enabling patients to leave non-urgent messages for their doctors; cancel appointments with a push of a button; and leave messages in languages other than English, so all patients can feel comfortable and empowered.
“It has been a wonderful opportunity for the health care system to hear patient opinions, react and respond,” said Newman. “We felt they were hearing us because they cared, and we were able to do something beneficial for both patients and the practice.”
Bob Schmidt became a patient partner with Thomas Stein Jr., MD, at Jefferson Family Medicine in 2012. He began suggesting ways to encourage patients to be open with their doctors, improve the office atmosphere and more.
One of the most powerful ideas stemmed from Schmidt’s own health. At nearly 70 years old, he has Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
When he and Stein examined the patient dashboard to track key improvement indicators, such as blood pressure and blood glucose levels, Schmidt noticed little progress on eye exam adherence.
While Stein encouraged patients to get eye exams to check for retinopathy, often caused by diabetes, many weren’t taking action. Schmidt suggested they create a poster for the waiting room, featuring image from a diabetes booklet provided by the practice.
The image includes three photos of a young child on a playground.
One photo is clear, the next is blurry and the last photo is black, demonstrating vision loss due to retinopathy.
The practice accepted his idea and talked more frequently to patients about the importance of an annual eye exam. Within a year, the practice increased eye exam adherence among diabetic patients from 25 percent to 44 percent.
“It makes you feel good to be able to provide a different perspective,” said Schmidt, who is now a patient partner with Spring Valley Family Medicine since Jefferson Family Medicine closed last year. “It gives people a can-do attitude."