Empowering Health Care Consumers

Grantee Name

Island Peer Review Organization, Inc.

Funding Area

Empowering Health Care Consumers

Publication Date

September 2021

Grant Amount


Grant Date:

November 2018- May 2021

Patient and Family Advisory Councils (PFACs) can improve health care delivery and optimize the patient experience.

In partnership with hospitals and health care organizations, patients, family members, and staff provide input on and are involved in hospital-related decisions (e.g., governance, policies, staffing, communications, and facilities) and quality and patient safety initiatives. These partnerships—which prioritize the health care consumer—have led to significant and lasting changes in the health care system.

However, traditional PFAC models can overlook certain patient populations and present barriers to regular, in-person participation, such as time availability and transportation, that limit input from a wider array of patients and families. An NYHealth-funded report, “Strategically Advancing Patient and Family Advisory Councils in New York State Hospitals,” assessed PFACs’ performances and impact in New York State and gave recommendations for best practices, which included establishing virtual learning communities to overcome those hurdles. Building on this report and with an NYHealth grant, Island Peer Review Organization (IPRO) partnered with X4 Health to develop and test a new model, the Next Generation PFAC (N-PFAC), that would employ a technology platform to broaden patient voices by convening a larger, more diverse patient group virtually.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

Under this grant, IPRO and X4 Health:

  • Developed the program infrastructure for and implemented N-PFAC at medical practices in New York State.
  • Developed practice-specific implementation plans, including an engagement plan and timeline to keep patients and practice leaders in regular contact and conversation.
  • Created a private online community for each practice, and a shared online community for the sites to engage with each other and with the project team.
  • Hosted trainings for the practices on using N-PFAC and created a manual for managing the online communities.
  • Provided technical assistance for advisor engagement, bi-weekly quality improvement coaching, and monthly coaching calls for each practice.
  • Helped co-develop quality improvement interventions and collaborated closely with project teams to solve advisor recruitment, engagement, and data collection issues.
  • Developed an implementation manual to support future replication of N-PFAC in practices across the State.
  • Administered and collected patient portal and telemedicine surveys from more than 100 advisory council members at two medical clinics engaged in the project.

The unforeseen COVID-19 pandemic and its timing disrupted parts of this project. As provider efforts were redirected to the ongoing public health crisis, many did not have the capacity or resources to participate in the learning communities and/or fully carry out the proposed quality improvement plans. As a result, only four primary care medical practices were recruited, of which three fully completed all aspects of the pilot. One participating clinic was able to fully conduct its proposed quality improvement project to promote telemedicine uptake and reduce call volume. This clinic observed significant improvements for both goals, with patient portal usage doubling over the grant period.

The pilot produced some encouraging results and the concept of virtual PFACs remains promising. However, circumstances beyond the grantees’ control prevented the model from being as fully tested as planned. Over the course of the grant, IPRO developed a strong network of partners that supported recruitment efforts and disseminated project findings. The project team worked closely with the New York State Academy of Family Physicians, the New York Chapter of the American College of Physicians, and New York-based solutions provider MedAllies, which provided outreach to practices participating in the Comprehensive Primary Care Plus (CPC+) medical home model. IPRO will produce a journal article on the N-PFAC project, as well as share insights on patient engagement in the COVID-19 landscape through various social media channels.

Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: N/A