Inviting Parent and Patient Partners to be Part of Your Improvement Team

August 8, 2014   |  Tags: Blog   |  Tags: Patient Partners , QI , Pediatrics
Alicia DeLashmutt, Parent Partner at OPIP


Who are Parent/Patient Partners?

You see us every day in your practice. We are the mom of talkative Tyrone who needed your expertise for a nasty ear infection. We are the Dad of affectionate Suzy who has complex healthcare needs due to her genetic syndrome. We are the Grandmother Eliza who sprained her wrist in a fall. We are your customers, your families, your patients, and every day we walk through your office doors bringing with us our experience and expertise. We are the families in Family-Centered Medical Home and we are available to partner with you to help enhance and improve your delivery of quality service.

Many practices all over the country know of and are actively forming Patient and Family Advisory Councils (PFAC) to be a part of their Medical Home Improvement Strategy. PFACs are a great way to attain patient and family input in quality efforts- especially in a steering and/or guidance capacity. PFACs generally meet regularly (e.g. quarterly), and discuss a host of issues that often include quality improvement efforts. In contrast, Parent Partners participate at the level of implementation, serving as an enduring member on your quality team to help plan, test, and spread changes.

Both PFACs and Parent Partners serve important and complementary functions in a patient-centered medical home improvement approach. The focus of this article is on Parent/Patient Partners, as their involvement is a relatively novel activity, and one that practices can initially be hesitant to attempt.

As our medical team, you make a difference in our lives every day and we hold knowledge and expertise that can help you, if you let us, do that even more effectively. Invite us in as partners around your quality improvement table.


How can you make this happen?

The tendency for all of us is to wait for that ‘perfect moment’ before starting something – especially if it’s new and a little out of the ordinary for our daily routine. Perhaps inviting families to participate in your improvement efforts sounds well and good, but you really think waiting until you are more organized would be prudent. Maybe it would be better after flu season, or after that EMR upgrade. Keep in mind, that if our families waited until we ‘had it all together’ to bring our children into your offices you would never see us! We come in at our most vulnerable and we trust you to work together with us through our concerns, weaknesses and problems. We are already a team. Our goal is your goal; we want the best outcomes for our families.

To start the process of finding the right Parent Partner for your Medical Home Quality Improvement Team, think about the collection of characteristics that would best meet your practice needs.

Some key questions to consider when adding a Parent Partner to your QI team would be:

  • Does the Partner have the time to commit to the team (access to childcare, transportation, etc)?
  • Are they confident and able to speak of their experience in a group setting?
  • Do they fit with your group dynamic?
  • Do they have children with special healthcare needs?

People with and Parents of children with special healthcare needs often bring extremely valuable perspectives to medical home models as they are connected with many local professional and family resources and multiple specialists.


A few questions to ask within your practice while seeking a Parent/Patient Partner might be:

  • Do we want more than one Parent/Patient Partner to deepen the breadth of experience and expertise?
  • How are we going to recruit our Parent/Patient Partner(s)? Personal invitation, waiting room poster, Facebook?
  • Have we allotted an appropriate amount in our budget to pay our Parent/Patient Partners? Most practices allow $12 - $25 or more per hour. Your Parent/Patient Partner should not be seen as a voluntary position. Every other member of your QI team will be paid for their participation and contribution.
  • How many meetings a month do we want to have and will they be by phone or in person?
  • How do we communicate clearly with our Parent/Patient Partner (no acronyms please!) about the position both before and after they become a part of our team?
  • How will we educate our Parent Partner about Medial Home and our practice goals?


So when is a good time to start?

How about now? By adding Parent/Patient Partners to your Medical Home Quality Improvement Team, you will be building a stronger Patient Centered Medical Home, stronger families and stronger children



Alicia DeLashmutt is Neva’s Mom and a Parent Partner at the Oregon Pediatric Improvement Partnership (OPIP), a Family Advocate and Educator, and a Speaker on Inclusive Education and Communities.




Hear from OPIP's Director, Colleen Reuland, on their strategies for incorporating Parent and Patient Partners in quality improvement efforts >>>