Patient and Family Advisory Councils (PFACs)

PFACs: Where’s the Money? The Financial Impact on Hospitals

Since the first Patients and Family Advisory Councils (PFACs) were started in the late 1990s, more than 2,000 hospitals have launched a PFAC. In Massachusetts PFACs are mandated. Yet, about 60 percent of hospitals still have not adopted a PFAC.

The PFAC impact is legendary — providing feedback and input on a wide range of issues to help improve the patient experience. Yet, there are many who still don’t embrace the value of PFACs. At the Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI) Conference in December 2013, someone mentioned to me that there were audible groans from audience members when a keynote speaker encouraged using patients on hospital committees. I’ve been told that where PFACs are required, oftentimes, lip service is accorded the committees, that have little input or impact. Then, I was on a call where someone inquired about the business case for starting a PFAC.

There seems to be reluctance to including patients’ valuable viewpoints. So I set out to prove that patients can have a positive impact on the bottom-line, building a business case for PFACs. The Beryl Institute was kind enough to underwrite my project.

Over several months, I gathered examples of where PFACs have saved hospitals money. However, I found that the amount of money was difficult to quantify. I encourage everyone, who is involved with a PFAC, to benchmark the status quo and after implementation, measure the results. Track those results and report on them, so management is aware of the impact, whether it’s financial or some other measurement.

Patient satisfaction feedback through HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) surveys has financial ramifications; however, I was looking for specific patient generated ideas that have been implemented resulting in financial savings.

A number of institutions have annual reports containing a description of each project and many of those reports are available online. I poured over tons of documents, finding few metrics and little data on PFACs’ hospital impact.

Survey Results

I distributed a survey on PFACs through listservs, blogs and organizations’ emails. I was able to attract 60 survey participants, who shed light on what’s going on in the PFAC world. The survey, which was distributed in March 2014, consisted of 17 questions.

The Partnership for Patients, which involves more than 8,000 partners, including federal agencies, private-public partners and over 3,700 hospitals operating within 26 Hospital Engagement Networks (HENs), has been tracking PFACs’ success. Focused on making hospital care safer, more reliable and less costly, most of the programs, initiatives and impacts of the PFAC reports are related to improving communication, staff sensitivity and patient satisfaction.

Here are the results of the survey and my research.

If you have examples of where a PFAC has saved a hospital money, please let me know.

Thank you,