Changing the Concept
From Families as "Visitors" to Families as Partners
New York State
Northwell Health is a large integrated health care organization comprised of 69,000+ employees, 23 hospitals and over 750 outpatient facilities, located geographically across New York State.
Northwell is dedicated to improving the patient and family experience by embracing patient- and family-centered care. Welcoming and including patients, families and care partners has always been a core element of their organizational goal of providing world-class patient experience.
“It is inspiring to work in partnership with our patients and families. They remind us what is most important and, together, we are making real impactful change for our organization,” shares Agnes Barden, DNP, RN, CPXP, vice president, Patient & Customer Experience.
Four years ago, the organization formalized a System Patient & Family Partnership Council (PFPC). Each area is represented by a Northwell patient experience leader and a patient/family co-chair from councils existing in nearly all 23 hospitals, and expanding into service lines. This model is grounded in listening to the “voice” of patients and families, promoting collaboration, and driving change across varied aspects and experiences of health care delivery.
A partnership with the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care and the Better Together: Partnering with Families initiative was a fundamental next step in Northwell’s progressive journey to enhance system-wide family presence and participation.
Results from Better Together’s Organizational Assessment Tool identified opportunities to influence three distinct areas: Policy/Staff Education, Position Descriptions/Performance Management, and Website/Signage. In a 10-month period, 15 Northwell hospitals were able to mobilize significant family centered enhancements through Shared Work Teams that partnered around the common goal of family presence.
Key accomplishments of this unique partnership include an approved system policy entitled, “Visitation: Presence and Participation of Families, Support System Designees and Visitor(s) in Care;” patient and family terminology incorporated in specific position descriptions (i.e. Nursing) and behavioral expectations; redesign of all hospital websites and digital signage to include language about the important role of families and care partners; and assessment of physical signage in key areas to ensure ongoing family welcoming opportunities. Better Together elements have also been infused in current Northwell PFPC sustainment plans.
Throughout the process of this impactful work, Northwell’s patient/family partners were involved. Two of them share their reactions: “…I am so happy to be able to help other families in crisis, so that they don’t have to be alone, like I was” and “I feel how important the patient and families voice is… it’s truly a partnership between patients, families and staff.”