Tomorrow is the state-mandated deadline for all hospitals in Massachusetts to have Patient and Family Advisory Councils (PFACs) up and running. Massachusetts is the first state in the nation to have such a requirement.
A little bit of a recap of how this came to be: The Consumer Health Quality Council, HCFA’s coalition of consumer volunteers who are advocating for improvements in the quality of care in the Commonwealth, wrote and advocated for an omnibus health care quality bill during the 2007-2008 legislative session. Four of that bill’s measures were incorporated into Senate President Therese Murray’s health care cost containment and quality improvement bill that became law in August of 2008: public reporting of Serious Reportable Events (SREs) and Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs), non-payment for care needed following the occurrence of a preventable SRE (later amended to include HAIs), the development of Rapid Response Methods at all hospitals that can be activated by staff and by patients and family members, and the establishment of Patient and Family Advisory Councils at all hospitals.
In 2009, the Department of Public Health finalized the regulations for implementing all of these measures. The regulations required all hospitals to have PFACs established by October 1, 2010 and also required them to have written plans in place by September 30, 2009 describing how they would establish the PFACs. Learn more about all of these measures and regulations on the HCFA website.
Since the regulations were finalized, much work has been done by the hospitals themselves as well as the Consumer Health Quality Council and the MA Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors. The Consumer Council requested all hospitals’ work plans soon after the September 2009 deadline. As of today, we have received plans, or found plans on-line, for all except four hospitals. You can visit our PFAC page to learn more about PFACs and see a list of all MA hospitals with links to those with information about their PFACs on the hospital’s website. The MA Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors has worked to educate all hospitals about PFACs and facilitate the sharing of information, challenges, and questions across hospitals.
Health Care For All and the Consumer Council applaud the hard work that many hospitals have put into creating and nurturing their PFACs. All hospitals are required to produce an annual report about the PFAC by October 1 of each year, and the Consumer Council has started to reach out to hospitals to request their 2010 reports. The Council looks forward to learning about the many activities that have been undertaken by PFACs across the state. Hospitals that have had PFACs in place since before the law was passed have seen how vital they are to helping the hospital improve care and patient and family satisfaction.
Massachusetts is leading they way in so many areas of health care, and this is a powerful example of the importance the Commonwealth has placed on the voices of patients and family members. It is also a fantastic example of the power of the consumer voice in terms of advocacy. The Consumer Council, a passionate group of volunteers, has helped pave the way toward many positive changes for all patients and families in Massachusetts.
-Deborah W. Wachenheim