University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Building on a Strong Past to Influence the Future

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) is the state’s only academic health center. The UAMS Medical Center provides inpatient care while patients receive outpatient services in many clinic areas located on the campus or nearby. Numerous specialty providers are part of this extensive system and are now enrolled in TCPi across thirteen service lines and forty-four practice areas.

In helping practices implement person and family engagement (PFE), UAMS is building upon its own strong past with patient- and family-centered care in other parts of the health system.

In 2010, UAMS began its long journey to engage patients and families as partners in change and transformation throughout the organization. According to Barbie Brunner, Director of Patient & Family Centered Care, at UAMS, “Authentic partnerships require patience, dedication, and commitment – there are no quick fixes.” Four key levers were utilized as a foundation for the change:

  • Strong and consistent leadership commitment to authentic partnerships demonstrated by integration of the patient voice into strategic decision-making
  • Utilization of patient and family stories to inspire, inform, and influence development of a patient- and family-centered care culture
  • Development of recruitment, selection, orientation, and placement processes for patient and family advisors into appropriate committees/councils
  • Preparation of clinicians and staff to work successfully with advisors as part of the way work is accomplished

Over the years, UAMS has focused its efforts on (1) creating effective mechanisms to ensure that the patient “voice” and feedback directly impacts decision-making and (2) ensuring that advisor skills and interests are well matched with actual advisor placements on committees or councils. Currently, UAMS has twelve advisory councils across service lines and 33 committees with patient and family members – in total over 132 advisors. In a recent satisfaction survey, 95% of advisors reported that their participation is valued and meaningful. This feeling is expressed by one advisor, Jesse Gatewood, “I get to share in the responsibility for improving patient care and creating an environment for quality outcomes.”

As TCPi specialty practices at UAMS move towards more effective engagement of patients and families, they will build on UAMS’ existing infrastructure and, therefore, will be able to accelerate their PFE programs. Using data from the TCPi baseline assessment, advisory council members will help identify improvement opportunities within the practices. Additionally, the practices will benefit from another UAMS project designed to involve patients and families in shared decision-making. Working in partnership with the Center for Health Literacy, the SDM team has begun by defining “shared decision-making” and by determining how teams can be trained to support the SDM process; UAMS patient and family advisors are actively involved. This work directly relates to TCPi’s PFE Performance Metric #2 and will support the specialty practices at UAMS embedding that standard into care for patients and their families.