Case Studies

Organizational Level Partnerships at Georgia Health Sciences Health System

Georgia Health Sciences Health
Augusta, GA
632 Beds

Georgia Health Sciences Health System consists of a medical center, more than 80 outpatient practice sites, a critical care center and a Children’s Medical Center.

The Problem 
The Georgia Health Sciences Medical Center and Children’s Medical Center began a patient-and family-centered journey in the 1990s when families expressed interest in being more involved with care for their children in intensive care units. Parents began meeting regularly with ICU clinicians to discuss issues and provide feedback about the care. With the building of a new Children’s Medical Center, there was an opportunity to involve patients and families in its design.

The Solution
Beginning with the pediatric units, a steering committee was established. Training sessions were held for staff and families to learn how to work together. A visioning retreat was held for hospital leaders to define core values and family-centered concepts, and priorities were identified and agreed upon. A family-centered services committee, which included staff and families, was formed to identify ways to integrate these concepts and strategies into all aspects of the hospital’s operations. In the late 1990s, a strategic plan was developed to implement patient- and family-centered care throughout the organization. The position of Director of Family Services Development was created, and the hospital hired the mother of a child with special health care needs to make sure that patient and family perspectives were represented in all aspects of the care experience. Patient and family engagement was then spread to the adult campus.
To support this work, all new staff members received orientation on patient- and family-centered care and the role of patient and family advisors. Patient-centered behaviors were defined and included in position descriptions, performance evaluations and annual reviews.

The Result
More than 200 patients and family advisors participate in advisory councils and hospital committees, including the children’s advisory committee, Kids’ ART (Architectural and Recreational Team), which gives recommendations to make the facilities more child friendly. Practice areas and affiliated ambulatory clinics also have a family advisory council. These patient and family advisors have provided input on key operational and strategic decisions including anesthesia staffing, medication dispensing, patient handoffs, patient and family rounding, patient safety and the design of new services. For example, patient and family advisors provided guidance for the design of the Neuroscience Center for Excellence, a patient care unit for stroke patients and individuals undergoing brain surgery. The new unit was designed with the goal of engaging families in care. In a three-year period, patient satisfaction scores increased and medication errors declined. In addition, patient and family advisors serve as faculty to the Health Sciences University.

Lessons Learned
Senior leadership is key as leaders need to model the behaviors of patient- and family-centered care and continually find ways to encourage patient and family involvement.

Contact Information
Bernard Roberson

This case study was originally featured in the HPOE guide: "Engaging Health Care Users: A Framework for Healthy Individuals and Communities," published January, 2013.

Additional Resources

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Webinars November 17th, 2017

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