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Hutchinson Health

Hutchinson Health's PFAC Team
Hutchinson Health's PFAC Team

Putting the patient's perspective to work at Hutchinson Health

Putting the Patient’s Perspective to Work at Hutchinson Health

A year ago, ICSI Member Hutchinson Health embarked on a partnership between its patients, providers, leaders and community members by forming a Patient and Family Advisory Committee (PFAC). Today the group of 13 includes nine patients and four staff. It is led by Amy Martin, Wellness Program coordinator, and Joy May, co-chair; other staff members include Glen Kegley, COO and Erin Knutson, MD.

The PFAC holds two meetings a month. One meeting includes project updates and time for patients to share stories about recent visits, including what went well and what can be done to improve the patient experience. The other meeting is an opportunity for organization leaders to solicit patient and family member perspectives on projects or potential problems.

“By engaging patient representatives in discussion and listening to what they have to say about what’s working well and our opportunities for improvement, we’re better positioned to see matters through the lens of our patients – often times from a perspective that didn’t cross our minds,” Kegley commented. “Early wins are important to gain rapid momentum,” he added. “Knowing what’s important to patients, we’re able to better prioritize wants and needs, and move quickly from concept to implementation.”

Program coordinator Amy Martin believes that one key to a strong Patient and Family Advisory Committee is to build trust from the start through frequent updates and communication. This encourages all members to share their stories, knowing that their feedback doesn’t stop there, but is communicated outside the walls of the committee room.

At committee meetings, Hutchinson Health wants to hear the positives of whatever topic is being discussed, but even more so, they want to hear patient input on what can be improved. The understanding is not to have an “unloading session”—so if problems are brought up, part of the process is to seek potential solutions for improvement from the committee.

To recruit members for its PFAC, Hutchinson Health utilizes a referral system of select staff members including physicians, social services workers and floor nurses. These individuals keep an eye out for patients who might be a good fit for the group. An ideal committee member is someone who has had a broad variety of experiences across Hutchinson Health. When a good candidate is identified, the recruiting team makes a brief initial contact to see if there is interest; if so, Martin follows up with them. New members then work directly with her to get acclimated to the work of the PFAC.

Recent improvements brought about by PFAC feedback include:

  • A wider distribution of “Tell us How We are Doing, We are Listening” brochures throughout waiting areas and in the exam rooms, giving all patients the opportunity to voice any compliments and concerns. The PFAC logo is visible on the brochure to indicate the committee’s involvement.

  • The introduction of new phone charging stations in the Emergency Department, Surgery and OB where patients sometimes end up having unexpected long waits—and need to contact their family members. So far patients have offered lots of positive feedback on this improvement.

When asked about the benefits of having a PFAC, Martin said, “Committee members tell me it is very meaningful to them to voice their perspective and give feedback—all in the hopes of making their health care provider – our organization – better. They want to make a positive difference and improve care experiences. Give them meaningful work, let them know they are being heard, and they will be actively involved, to everyone’s benefit.”

Considering a Patient and Family Advisory Committee for your organization?If you have additional questions about Hutchinson’s Health’s PFAC, contact Amy Martin at or learn more on their website.

Members of PFAC [photo top of article]: Sitting (left to right)- Amy Martin, PFAC co-chair, Sara Thode, patient partner; Tammy Hewitt, patient partner; Dr. Erin Knudtson. Standing (left to right)-Joy May, PFAC co-chair; Tina Schmidt, patient partner; Kelly Pierson, patient partner; Glen Kegley, COO.

Updated 06/01/17