Representing UW Health Patient and Family Advisors

By Peggy Zimdars


"A disrespectful health care environment is as harmful to patients and families as an infection." This powerful comment from a physician continues to resonate with me following a national patient and family advisor leadership gathering in Washington D.C., where I represented UW Health.


"Building the patient and family advisory leadership network for better care" was the title of the half-day meeting, hosted by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences. It brought together patient and family advisors and leaders in patient- and family-centered care from across the country. Attendees included representatives from the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care (IPFCC), the American Hospital Association (AHA), the Partnership for Patients of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, among others.


Peggy Zimdars, UW Health Patient and Family AdvisorThis November 2013 meeting, focused on building a patient and family advisory leadership virtual network, was one of the outcomes of a prior IOM gathering in February 2013, hosted as part of its Roundtable on Value and Science-Driven Care series of workshops. That session highlighted the importance of partnering with patients and patient engagement as a fundamental precursor to high quality care, lower costs and better health.


Presentations at the November 2013 meeting highlighted: 

  • Case studies of patient and family advisory councils in Georgia and Massachusetts
  • An AHA survey of hospitals about the impact of patient- and family-centered care
  • Virtual patient and family advisory council started at Nemours hospitals
  • Partnership for Patients and its goal of reducing hospital-acquired conditions by 40 percent and 30-day readmissions by 20 percent
  • The Patient Family Advisor Council Network of the IPFCC and research priorities and opportunities through the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute

I learned about how some of the councils are starting virtual patient and family advisory groups through Yammer as a way to engage younger adults and those who cannot attend in person, while casting a wider net for surveys and input on questions. We also learned about the opportunity for patients and families to submit questions for research and to help with study design, execution and implementation of results as a way to infuse patient and family knowledge and needs into research through the Patient Centered Outcome Research Institute. There was a lot of support for patient and family advisors who would serve as "faculty" in health care curriculums and at conference and orientations.


Patient and family advisors shared concerns and successes about their councils and offered suggestions for networking among patient and family advisors. I was struck by how much progress we have made in our Patient and Family Advisor Partnership Program here at UW Health in recent years.


Based on the experiences of others in the room, I am certain that our progress can be traced to the support and commitment of our leadership at all levels, evidenced by its strategic goal for institution-wide patient- and family-centered care.


It was an honor to represent the many committed patient and family advisors at UW Health. I look forward to the patient and family-centered care conversations and sharing among advisors nationally through the virtual network that will result from this meeting.


Peggy Zimdars is a longtime UW Health Patient and Family Advisor and Co-Chair Elect of the UW Health Adult Patient and Family Advisory Council. Her volunteer involvement has included serving on the Adult Patient Family Advisory Council Planning Committee, the Discharge Collaborative, Patient and Family Advisor Recruitment Group, UW Health at the American Center Planning Group, Survivor Steering Committee, Quest for Quality Award Committee, Magnet Interdisciplinary Committee, MyChart Patient and Family Advisory Council, Microsystems patient panel and efforts related to surgical site infection prevention education from the perspective of the patient and family.