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December 07th, 2021

swmc pfacSouthwest Medical Center staff is now working with patients and their families to help improve some of the services at the hospital. Leaders of the Patient and Family Advisory Council are looking for new members to start new sessions of the focus group beginning in January 2022. Courtesy photoROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times


Earlier this year, Southwest Medical Center launched its first Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC).

The council consists of patients and family members of patients who have received services at the hospital, either on an inpatient or outpatient basis.

The mission of the PFAC is to facilitate collaboration between patients, family members, hospital staff, administration and physicians in order to enhance the overall patient care experience.

PFAC members have a valuable impact on the patient experience through sharing their ideas and providing feedback on the planning, design of health system-based programs and services.

The first PFAC group, SWMC’s Jennifer Smith said, went well.

“We’ve had good feedback,” she said. “We had a good team mixed with us and the patients, and we did a project for them to help us with input on our discharge process. That went well.”

Now, the hospital is looking for new members for its next focus group.

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“We need more patients,” Smith said. “We need more community members to be a part of the feedback.”

SWMC’s Dr. William Purdy said through feedback from the first group, hospital leaders were able to recognize how the discharge process at the hospital can be improved.

“As a consequence, we were able to develop new folders for discharge and develop and implement those changes,” he said.

SWMC Nurse Manager Jesse Ruiz said the PFAC group has opened eyes to what can be improved at the hospital.

“The view on the other side was we are on the inside doing what we do,” he said. “Having their input on what we’re doing, the repercussions, giving us a 360 view to it adds and helps us provide better care.”

Smith said the idea for the PFAC came from seeing what other hospitals in the state are doing.

“Several hospitals have patient family advisory councils in place, and the Kansas Hospital Hospital puts out that it’s the best thing to have in place for patient and family communication,” she said. “It was just time we got one going.”

SWMC Marketing and Public Relations Director Janeth Vazquez said the second focus group will start in January 2022, and signing up is simple.

“They can call me directly, or they can also message us through all our social media platforms,” she said. “I’ll be more than happy to e-mail them an application, or I can also mail one out to them.”

SWMC’s Mirella Buchman said PFAC leaders get to hear patients’ perspectives about the quality of care from the hospital’s nursing staff, how they were greeted, how a patient was treated throughout their stay and how to implement any changes or how care could be improved. 

“It’s very important to have our patients give that voice back to us,” she said.

Purdy agreed.

“We want to have a very high quality of care with our patients, and by having this feedback, we are able to take steps toward that improvement in quality of care,” he said. 

Vazquez said the upcoming PFAC group will focus on hospital signage and navigation.

“We’ve noticed sometimes there are patients who can’t find the way around the hospital,” she said. “We want to make it easier for them. We want to bring them in and do a scavenger hunt to see where the bigger areas of need are and from there implement better signage for our patients.”

Vazquez said PFAC will not take much of a person’s time.

“We only meet six times for about an hour,” she said.  “The time commitment isn’t very intense.”

Vazquez said the upcoming group will likely be an even shorter commitment.

“It’s really all going to depend on how the feedback goes, the initial intake and research we get,” she said.

Purdy said PFAC is very helpful with ideas to improve care at the hospital.

“Bringing those people in, that gives us the input they can share and bring to us and help us problem solve where our needs are and what we need to improve,” he said.

Buchman said thus far, the focus group has even helped identify things hospital officials have not thought about.

“The PFAC was able to bring those things to us, and we were able to research and figure out what is it we need to improve,” she said. “We may start with signage, but during that PFAC, we may find something else we need to be working on based on the feedback we get from our patients. For the next session, it might be something different we might be focusing on.”

Purdy said improving on patients’ journey is ultimately what officials with both the hospital and the PFAC want to accomplish.

Vazquez said group leaders would also love to hear topics, ideas and suggestions from the community at large.

“They can reach out to us so we can start looking into it,” she said.

“We enjoy hearing from our patients from their perspective,” Smith said. “We hear good comments, and we also hear ways we can improve our care. That’s very important to us.”

Buchman said ultimately, SWMC is in place to prove a service for its patients and the community.

“We want to make sure we are providing that excellent care we’re striving for, so having that feedback is also very hopeful to us,” she said. “You don’t necessarily have to be part of the PFAC. We do surveys. We do telephones, mail surveys. We encourage our patients to take that time. We do look at those very carefully, try to figure out what we can change.”

Purdy said patient satisfaction is what hospital leaders want.

“We want them to continue using a services we have in the community,” he said. “Their input is key. Every time a patient is discharged from the hospital, they’re given an opportunity to perform some kind of feedback for us. We’re trying to increase that.”

“We’re trying to better provide a service to our community and our surrounding communities,” Buchman said.

Purdy said criticism too is welcome.

“We need to know how and what we need to improve,” he said. “We might think we’re great at something, but if we’re not, we need to know.”

Vazquez emphasized anyone is welcome to come to the PFAC focus group.

“You don’t have to a certain level of education,” she said. “Income doesn’t matter. We are here to serve family, and everybody’s welcome to join our group.”

Buchman said PFAC leaders have all the time available patients are willing to provide for suggestioins for improvements.

“Generally, we asked the patients or family what date works best for you,” she said. “We try to be very accomodating to their schedules.”

With the completion of the first focus group and more upcoming, Vazquez said those from previous groups are invited to continue with PFAC.

“It’s really up to them how long they want to serve on the PFAC,” she said.

Smith said once one focus group is done, leaders begin looking for a new group.

“We would encourage anybody who is interested in giving their feedback and being a part of this to contact Janeth,” she said. “We definitely need community input.”

“If they have any questions, please give me a call,” Vazquez said. “I know this is a new group to the community, so there’s a lot of people who are still learning what the PFAC is. If they have any questions, feel free to contact me directly, and I’ll be happy to answer them.”

“It’s a good way to get involved in the community and help our health care facility,” Purdy said.

Vazquez can be reached at 620-629-6335 or at her office at SWMC.

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