Patient Partners

“Patient partners” are helping us improve healthcare for all patients.

Today, every CHA primary care center has an improvement team with doctors, nurses, medical assistants and two patient partners. These partners are volunteers who help each practice improvement team understand how best to work with patients and families.


Who are the patient partners?

Patient partners (like Ruth and Glory, shown here) are real patients and family members who work with CHA to help us understand and improve the healthcare system – from the patient perspective. They come from all walks of life, from different communities, and have different levels of education, professions, and interests. Nearly half of our patient partners moved to the USA from countries such as Brazil, the Philippines, Uganda, and even Australia. Some work full time, others do not. Patient partners go to different CHA primary care practices as patients, the parents of patients, or caregivers for their own parents.

How does it work?

When a Practice Improvement team (PIT team) tackles a project, staff and patients work together to try and understand a problem. They design and test solutions, then to know if their ideas worked, the team asks patients, families, and staff. When a good idea works, a Practice Improvement Team will share it with the rest of the PIT teams, working at the other primary care practices.

If you are a CHA patient, keep an eye out for improvements in your clinic – your PIT team is hard at work!

Why teams?

At CHA, we believe that health comes from teams. Teams bring together people in different roles, with different ideas and perspectives, learning respectfully from each other. In primary care, patients and families work with their care teams to have the best possible care. So to improve CHA, we have improvement teams with different people, doing different jobs at the clinic, working with patients to make our system better. By working together, we’re learning how best to work with patients and families. Together, we’re growing stronger.

Examples

Helping children work as part of their care team.

Learning how to be responsible is part of growing up. So is learning how to be responsible about taking care of your body. Children learn to brush their teeth, comb their hair, and get dressed in the morning. But do they learn how to work with their doctor?

  • At Cambridge Pediatrics, Patient Partners Kim Baldasaro and Ziva Mann are working on a project to help adolescents and teenagers learn what it means to be responsible patients. The Cambridge Pediatrics Practice Improvement (PIT) team learned that adult patients are given a handout in the waiting room, called “My Life, My Health.” This gives people a chance to think about their health, what’s working and what’s puzzling about their body. And, it gives people a chance to think about what questions and concerns they wish to share with their care team. The Cambridge Pediatrics team looked at the form, and thought this could work for kids. “Kids are great at asking questions! We just had to figure out how to get them to do it at their checkup,” said Ziva Mann, Cambridge Pediatrics Patient Partner and CHA’s Patient Lead.
  • The Patient Partners took the handout to JCDS, an elementary school in Watertown, and asked middle schoolers for help. The students talked honestly about what they need from their doctors, and what they would need to learn, in order to be in responsible for their own health. They helped the team create a teen-friendly page, where teens can write down questions to ask their care team, and make notes on how well they are eating, sleeping, and staying healthy.

“As a parent, I’m helping my kids grow into adults. When they are young, I remind them to brush their teeth. But when they get older, it’s their job. Taking responsibility is part of growing up,” Ziva said. “I need my clinic to help my kids grow into strong , healthy adults. I also need the clinic to help my sons grow into strong patients, who know what their bodies need, and how to work with their doctor and nurse to be healthy.”

Keep an eye out for the My Life, My Health page at your next visit! And if you have any ideas or suggestions about helping children grow into strong patients, email Ziva Mann at zmann@challiance.org.

A special thanks to the middle school students at JCDS, in Watertown,for their help and insight. Thank you!!

CHA Malden PIT Team

Helping patients with high blood pressure.

As a member of the Malden Practice Improvement Team (at left), Glory Roseman is committed to making her community healthier. Glory is one of two Patient Partners on Malden’s PIT team, where she speaks for Malden’s patients and families. In September, Glory joined a CHA task force to help people with high blood pressure. Glory is helping the team understand what people need when they live with high blood pressure, and how to help.

“Glory is providing this team with tremendous support," said Rob Chamberlin, MD, CHA’s Director of Primary Care Performance Improvement. "Her perspective is guiding the development of patient education materials that will make a real difference in the health of our patients.”

How do patient partners describe their work?

“I speak for patients who cannot speak or do not have the chance to speak for themselves.”

“We help our teams understand what patients and families need, what works and doesn’t work…we work hard to think beyond our own experience, and to speak for the many different patients at the clinic.”