American Hospital Association
Health Research & Educational Trust

Patient & Family Engagement (PFE)


PFE has been defined as “patients, families, their representatives and health professionals working in active partnership at various levels across the health care system —direct care, organizational design and governance, and policy making — to improve health and health care” (Carman et al, 2013). This definition acknowledges that PFE represents a continuum of strategies and approaches that ranges from asking patients and families to provide feedback about their hospital experience to partnering with them to reduce adverse drug events. Hospitals can create opportunities for patient and family partnerships through patient and family advisory councils, multidisciplinary bedside rounding, change-of-shift bedside report and shared decision-making (IOM, 2012).

Health information technology can also facilitate timely and effective communication between patients and providers. It is the hospital’s and health system’s role to develop these opportunities and to inform and empower patients and families to take advantage of them. As health care consumers, patients, their families and caregivers are key stakeholders in efforts to reduce hospital-acquired conditions and should play a role in quality improvement. Learn more about Children’s Mercy Hospital’s multi-faceted approaches to engage patients and families in quality improvement.

Patient activation has also been linked to better outcomes (Hibbard & Greene, 2013). Innovative health care organizations are measuring patient activation to monitor efforts to individualize patient care and strengthen the patient’s role in improving health outcomes. By tailoring coaching, education and care protocols to patients at different levels of activation, delivery systems are making more efficient use of their resources. They are providing more support to patients with chronic disease and limited self-management skills, and less support to those who do not need it.

This Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence guide, a collaboration with the American Society for Healthcare Engineering explores ways hospital and health system leaders can use the physical environment to improve the patient experience. The guide describes ways to improve the patient experience of care.

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