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Engaging Patients and Families in System-Level Improvement: A Safety Imperative

Kemper, Carol PhD, RN, CPHQ; Blackburn, Chrissie; Doyle, Judy A.; Hyman, Daniel MD, MMM

doi: 10.1097/NAQ.0b013e318295f61e
Original Articles

Health care organizations have focused considerable effort and resources on improving patient safety and health care quality. Yet, despite these efforts, patients continue to experience harm events within our institutions. Family engagement is a powerful and often untapped resource to improve the quality and safety of organizations. While the value patients and families bring as partners in improving the safety and quality of health care is implicitly recognized, the adoption of structures to actively involve health care consumers has been slow, particularly in organizational or overall system work. Patients and families can stimulate and drive improved health care services through their involvement at the clinical/point of care, policy/design, and governance levels of the organization. For successful implementation, organization leaders must establish family engagement as a system-level priority. Roles to support the development of a family engagement program, methods to evaluate the level of family engagement, and strategies to enhance and sustain family engagement are described. Although there is limited evidence-based knowledge related to the best practices for family engagement, opportunities exist to drive the family engagement agenda at a regional and national level through participation in networks such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Partnership for Patients campaign Hospital Engagement Networks.

Quality and Safety, Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, Kansas City, Missouri (Dr Kemper); Family Advisory Council, University Hospital Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio (Ms Blackburn); Akron Children's Hospital, Ohio (Ms Doyle); and Children's Hospital Colorado, Aurora, (Dr Hyman).

Correspondence: Carol Kemper, PhD, RN, CPHQ, Vice President, Quality and Safety, Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, 2401 Gillham Rd, Kansas City, MO 64108 (

Each of the authors works within a hospital participating in the Ohio Children's Hospitals' Solutions for Patient Safety, a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Partnership for Patients hospital engagement network (HEN), and is a member of that HEN's family engagement committee.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

© 2013 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins