The PFAC is a formal group of patient and family advisors that meets regularly for active collaboration on policy and program decisions. The purpose of a PFAC is to integrate the patient and family perspective into the work and operation of the hospital. A PFAC is not a support group or grievance committee. It also is not a group that is convened to provide approval for programs, processes, policies, or materials that have already been developed. To be effective, a PFAC should be involved in the development, planning, implementation, and evaluation of programs, policies, and initiatives, with the ability to offer input that is received and acted upon in meaningful ways. While hospitals may structure PFACs according to their individual needs, typical PFAC operating guidelines include the following:
Membership. Patients and families who participate as PFAC members are individuals with health care experiences in the specific hospital for which they are serving as advisors. PFAC membership may also include hospital leaders, clinicians, and staff, but at least 50% of the members should be patients and family members.
Size. PFACs vary in size, but typically consist of between 12 and 25 members. PFACs that are too small may find it difficult to accomplish goals, or face sustainability challenges due to membership attrition. When PFACs are too large, it can be challenging to manage and come to consensus.
Diversity. PFAC members should have diverse health care experiences and reflect the types of patient and family populations and communities that the hospital serves. Particular attention should be paid to recruiting members of vulnerable populations to serve on the PFAC.
Mission. The PFAC should have a clear mission statement to guide and focus the work of the PFAC. Mission statements typically indicate the council's purpose, outline major goals, and identify the key stakeholders.
Charter. Effective PFACs also establish a charter to guide how the PFAC functions. The charter typically addresses topics such as membership eligibility and terms, meeting schedules, and roles and responsibilities. The PFAC should have a designated patient chair or co-chairs with responsibility for ensuring that the PFAC has active participation from all members, is functioning effectively, and that the activities and outcomes of the PFAC are communicated outward.
Meetings. Effective PFACs convene regularly to ensure consistent partnership and collaboration. The frequency of meetings may vary depending on the needs and activities of the hospital. However, PFACs should, at a minimum, meet quarterly. Communication in between meetings helps ensure that members remain active and engaged in the work.
Projects and work. PFACs can participate in a variety of projects, but the purpose and value of their work should be clearly specified. Why is the hospital seeking their input? How will their work be incorporated into the activity at hand? Specific activities may include providing feedback and advice for changes to hospital policies, care practices, and materials; helping create materials and strategies for improving health care quality and safety for all patients; providing input in the hiring of physician and senior leadership candidates; or helping hospital staff carry out changes to improve hospital safety and quality. It is important for hospitals to truly listen to input, incorporate the work of the PFAC in meaningful ways, and report back to the PFAC members on the outcomes of their work.
Materials adapted from Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ)
Guide to Patient and Family Engagement in Hospital Quality and Safety, and CMS'
Partnership for Patients Strategic Vision Roadmap for Person and Family Engagement