Patient Engagement Drives Quality Care in Rural Alabama

Alabama Physician Alliance Practice Transformation Network and Brookwood Baptist Health

Talladege Patient and Family Advisory Council

Alabama Physician Alliance Practice Transformation Network and Brookwood Baptist Health go a step beyond patient satisfaction surveys to capture the voice of their patients by creating Patient and Family Advisory Councils (PFACs) in three diverse markets.

Alabama Physician Alliance Practice Transformation Network (PTN) formed in September 2015, following award notification of a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative (TCPI) grant—a large-scale federal investment designed to support clinicians in the delivery of high quality, collaborative care. Recognizing that improvements in health outcomes require patients to be active participants in facilitating behavior changes, the PTN sought opportunities to engage patients in open dialogue about how clinicians and practices can adapt to better meet their needs.

In July 2016, the PTN partnered with Brookwood Baptist Health to form their first PFAC in the rural market of Talladega, Alabama. Comprised of patients, family members, and caregivers from six primary and specialty care outpatient practices and Citizens Baptist Medical Center (the community hospital), PFAC members meet quarterly with hospital administration, including the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer, the Director of Operations for the Brookwood Baptist Health Primary & Specialty Care Network practices, and a physician champion, who is a retired Primary Care Provider and highly recognized and admired community member. The PFAC has been heavily involved in discussions surrounding new Professional Office Building construction, making recommendations for doors that easily open to assist patients and family members with walkers, wheel chairs, and strollers. They provided guidance on new marketing materials and shared decision-making tools; offered suggestions for increasing patient portal usage, a challenge in rural markets with limited technology; helped create community resource cards with transportation, food pantry, and other area services offered; and participated in discussions about starting Sunday lunch and learn sessions to educate the community about diabetes, hypertension, and other relevant health conditions.

The PFAC members take great pride in their community. PFAC member, Marie Player, states, “I want to participate in the PFAC because I want to be proud of saying ‘I am from Talladega’ and I think having quality healthcare makes our community that much better.” After serving a one-year term, the PFAC was asked if they would like continue participating, and the answer was a resounding and unanimous “YES!” In fact, two members have asked their spouses to join as well.

The success of the Talladega PFAC sparked the launch of two additional councils in Shelby County and Birmingham (Brookwood), Alabama, and two more are in the process of getting started. Healthcare organizations must foster an environment in which open conversations take place with patients and a shared accountability for health outcomes is acknowledged and promoted. Brookwood Baptist Health has done an excellent job of not just encouraging patient feedback but cultivating a process for putting patient recommendations to use. When patients see that healthcare organizations value and respect their opinions, they are more likely to collaborate with clinicians, be more compliant, and develop a higher level of trust.