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Rice forms advisory committee to get perspective of patients

WILLMAR -- A staff committee at Rice Memorial Hospital was working on a project to improve the interaction among patients, nurses and physicians.

But when the project was presented to the hospital's patient advisory committee, the committee members had a few suggestions and perspectives of their own.

"Did we get a lot of advice on that -- and things we would not have thought of," said Maureen Ideker, chief nursing officer at Rice.

As a result, the project is being modified to incorporate some of the advisory committee's feedback, she said.

The patient advisory committee is brand new -- in fact the group had its first meeting only two weeks ago -- but already it's proving to be valuable, Ideker said. "It actually fulfilled what we were hoping for, and more."

Hospital officials were looking for ways to engage patients more actively in the quality and safety of their care, she said.

Hospital leaders talked about it for at least a year before settling on the idea of an advisory committee as the best and most effective way of inviting patient involvement.

Hospitals haven't traditionally done this, Ideker said.

But the industry increasingly sees partnerships and communication with patients as one of the keys to fostering better, safer patient care.

"It's very important to get this feedback. It changes the way we'll be making decisions," Ideker said.

The 10 committee members were hand-picked to represent a cross-section of the patient population. Some have been patients at Rice Hospital or have a family member who was a patient. Some have experience with having a chronic disease.

The committee also includes representatives from Willmar's Latino and Somali communities to ensure diversity.

"We were looking for people who would be willing to speak out and who would be representing a specific group," Ideker said.

She said the committee will meet once a month. The members have undergone an orientation program and will be given a tour of the hospital in upcoming weeks.

Their feedback on hospital services from the patient perspective will be sought frequently, Ideker said.

"That's what we're going to be doing with each meeting," she said. "We're going to ask for their opinion."

It's a model that could be expanded to other areas of the hospital, she said.

Hospital leaders hope that by having an advisory committee, a stronger connection can be developed between the city-owned hospital and the public. For many of the advisory committee members, volunteering to serve on the committee is a way of helping, Ideker said. "They wanted to give something back."

The patient perspective, even if it involves criticism, also is important for the hospital to hear, she said.

At the group's first meeting, the feedback was "very constructive," she said. "It wasn't all rosy. That's good for us to know."

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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