Many of those involved in patient and family engagement efforts recognize the challenge of patient partnership across different settings of care. Entira Family Clinics has pioneered engaging patients in improvement processes in the clinics. Entira Family Clinics has been serving the East Metro community for over 50 years and has 12 clinics in the St. Paul area. Entira Family Clinics are specialists in family medicine, dedicated to providing high-quality medical care to individuals in all stages of life. Entira focuses on the family and serves numerous multi-generational families. An emphasis is placed on preventive, acute, and chronic care. Patient care is coordinated to attend to any problem that may arise; including referral to quality specialists and state of the art diagnostics.

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Engaging patients is one essential component of Entira Family Clinic’s Clinical Practice Department. Dr. Tim Hernandez is the Medical Director of this area and Lorraine Cummings, Quality Improvement Consultant, serves as a coordinator for patient partnerships. They currently have seven clinical committees:

  • Behavioral
  • Cardiology/Pulmonary
  • Clinical Quality (1 patient partner serves)
  • Neuro-musculoskeletal
  • Obstetrics & Gynecology
  • Patient Safety (25 members, 1-2 patient partners serve on it, meets monthly)
  • Preventive & Pediatric Services  

Dr. Hernandez states, “It’s been an amazing, and multi-year journey to have patient partners serving on our various patient care committees. I’m most proud of our team’s commitment for patients partnering on our Patient Safety Committee. We feel we are pioneering in this area for outpatient clinics. ”

Patients on the Patient Safety Committee attend meetings in their full length, contribute to discussion of agenda items, and help brainstorm solutions to safety concerns or issues.

Dr. Hernandaz continues, “Our patient’s perspectives are invaluable. They help us brainstorm from the simplest of problems to the most complex. For example, our patients provided wonderful input at a recent safety committee meeting in which we were discussing how to get timely lab results to patients. Their participation ensured we covered all the bases.”

Entira Family Clinics also has an active Patient Advisory Board  that meets quarterly on Saturday mornings. This group provides input on a range of topics that impact’s clinic operations. At a recent meeting, the agenda topics included patient messaging for Medicare’s annual wellness visit & functional assessment testing and feedback on the patient’s last clinic experience.

Entira is also health care home certified. Therefore, patients also serve on health care home care teams. The team is committed to improvement projects across the clinic and uses the “Plan, Do, Study, Act” methodology in many of their focus groups.  Past meeting topics have included patient messaging for colorectal cancer screening, seeking input on clinic remodeling and workflows

Lastly, Entira Family Clinics participates in the Honoring Choices group. They have four patient volunteers who are currently active in the program. They recruited patient volunteers by sending an email to all providers asking for suggestions of patients who might be a good fit. A staff member personally talks to patients who are candidates for serving.  If they are deemed a good fit through that one-on-one conversation, the patient volunteers are asked to sign a confidentiality  agreement. These patients serve as long as they want, and some have served longer than 3 years while some have just began.

Caution, look out ahead!

Challenges faced by Entira Clinics:

  • Always striving to ensure patient partners are not used as a “sounding board” but rather, truly engaged in improvement work and decision-making.
  • Seeking additional opportunities to include patients. Entira has a different landscape of needs for patients with psychosocial needs that is different from an inpatient and/or inpatient clinic setting. Outpatient clinics may have less access to resources when partnering with this patient population.

Contact Lorraine here, for more information.