Members of the 88th Medical Group’s Patient Advocate and Group Practice Managers offices meet to discuss forecasting in order to ensure patients have access to care at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Oct. 1. (U.S. Air Force photo/Leticia Hopkins)

New council gives patients a voice

The 88th Medical Group’s new Patient and Family Partnership Council met for the first time Sept. 26 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Master Sgt. Christina Ré, 88 MDG interim patient advocate, said the Defense Health Agency is requiring every medical treatment facility under its command to have a patient and family partnership council to build partnerships among staff members, patients and family members and improve patient care processes.

This month, the 88 MDG will transition and fall under DHA’s authority for administrative and management responsibilities due to a congressional mandate. The hospital used small focus groups to address patient concerns in the past.

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“DHA is very vested in this,” said Ré.

She added that DHA wants to know what issues or concerns the council has in order to determine the level of the issue and whether they are just at Wright-Patterson AFB, Air Force-wide and/or DHA-wide.

The PFPC’s mission is to “provide information, advice and recommendations to the 88th Medical Group commander on issues related to access, quality, administrative activities and the patient and family experience of care,” said Karla Engle, who is new to the 88 MDG Patient Advocate office. “The ultimate goal is to create a lot of process improvements and a better environment for the patients.”

Engle added that it would be good for them to get patients’ perspectives on areas to improve when it comes to patient care, especially on the areas that they may not see as insiders.

Engle and Ré agreed that it may take a couple of meetings to identify processes that the council can help improve versus single or isolated incidents, but that the work the council will do will be very beneficial to improving patient care.

Engle and Ré also agreed that the initial meeting was productive. During the meeting, attendees received information about what they would be doing as members of the council and confidentiality training.

“Just because you see it doesn’t mean you have the right to repeat it,” said Cheryl Cantrell, 88 MDG HIPAA privacy officer, during the privacy training session of the meeting.

In addition to being given information and training, the council started discussing some of the areas that they think the hospital can improve when it comes to patient care. The council is now considering how it can communicate better and share information with patients.

Work done by the council will also help the 88 MDG carry out its mission of trusted care and zero harm while contributing to the overall goal of readiness.

Trusted care is the number one priority, and this is a place where everyone has a voice – especially if someone doesn’t feel safe or like something isn’t right, Ré said.

“It’s our job to listen to them and try to make it right,” she added.

The PFPC currently has about 30 members. The council consists of 88th MDG staff members and beneficiaries. The beneficiary category is made up of active-duty members, active-duty dependents, retirees, retiree dependents and TRICARE Plus or TRICARE for Life members.

In order to be considered for a beneficiary position on the council one must:

• be one of the groups eligible to receive and currently receiving care from the 88th MDG

• have a positive attitude

• be able to look at patient process improvement areas

Once selected for the council, the new member will be required to:

• sign a confidentiality agreement

• review patient rights and responsibilities annually

• complete a local volunteer training program

• complete Privacy Act and HIPPA trainings annually

Because the council is voluntary, a member’s participation may no longer be needed if it’s not in the best interest of the council, other volunteers, 88 MDG or its staff members.

“Our mission as an MTF is patient care and patient satisfaction,” said Engle. “If we’re not listening to the patients and we’re not addressing their concerns, there’s going to be no patient satisfaction.”

Engle added that patient satisfaction and care go beyond what happens when a patient meets with a provider. It’s everything that comes along with getting them proper care and access to that care.

The PFPC is planning to meet again in late December 2019 or early January 2020. The council is required to meet quarterly at a minimum.

For more information about joining the PFPC, contact the 88 MDG Patient Advocate Office at 937-257-9131.

A short video about the military MTF transition can be found on the rotator of the WPAFB 88 MDG’s page on the Air Force Medical Service Web site: https://www.airforcemedicine.af.mil/MTF/Wright-Patterson/ or at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCGlprMKsE8.

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