Newswise — LOUISVILLE, Oct. 9, 2013 -- Individual patient outcomes and overall community health can be enhanced and improved when medical providers partner with patients and families in the design and delivery of health care services, according to a leading patient advocate in her keynote address at the National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ, annual educational conference.

Julie Ginn Moretz learned first-hand about the importance of family involvement in health care management during her son’s battle with heart disease. “If you have been in the hospital as a patient or have a loved one in the hospital, then you know the struggles. There isn’t a school for patients and families to learn how to be a good partner in care. Once we are thrust into that uncertain world, we know that we must take control of our own healthcare destiny,” Moretz recalled.

Her experiences in managing her son’s care led to a full-time career as a patient advocate serving as associate vice chancellor for patient-and family-centered care at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She told the NAHQ audience that involving patients and families in quality improvement initiatives is now considered to be a best practice within forward thinking health care systems. “Today, patients and families must be considered as full partners in every healthcare system to ensure that we are doing everything possible to enhance safety and quality outcomes.”

Moretz noted that the patient-and family-centered care movement has achieved significant progress, moving from “tokenism” to becoming a meaningful and influential agent for change in healthcare.

“We have changed how clinicians, staff and administrators view patients and families – from just being visitors to an integral part of the healthcare team,” said Moretz. “When patients are involved in their own care, they ask more questions, freely suggest alternative treatment options, and also report lapses or mistakes that could lead to adverse events,” she explained.

Moretz added that ongoing, legitimate patient engagement can change the culture of a hospital. For example, many hospitals have eliminated restrictions on visiting hours to enable families to be present during rounds and nursing shift changes and participate in critical conversations relating to a patient’s care. “Above all, when families are involved and speak up everybody wins. Patient care is improved and clinicians can rely on families to be trusted and dependable partners.”

Moretz said support from hospital leadership is a key first step for advancing patient-and family- centered care and establishing policies that help create authentic partnerships. “Even a seemingly minor step such as changing signage to communicate more respectfully can show the organization is serious about engaging patients and families,” she said. About NAHQFounded in 1976 and covering a full spectrum of healthcare specialties, the National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ) is an essential and interactive resource for quality and patient safety professionals worldwide. NAHQ’s vision is to realize the promise of healthcare improvement through innovative practices in quality and patient safety.

NAHQ’s 12,000-plus members and certificants benefit from cutting edge education and NAHQ’s unique collective body of knowledge, as well as opportunities to learn from a diverse group of professionals. These resources help assure success for implementing improvements in quality outcomes and patient safety, navigating the changing healthcare landscape, and serving as the voice of quality. Visit to learn more.


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National Association for Healthcare Quality annual meeting