Intention of this standard
The Partnering with Consumers Standard aims to create health service organisations in which there are mutually beneficial outcomes by having:
consumers as partners in planning, design, delivery, measurement and evaluation of systems and services
patients as partners in their own care, to the extent that they choose.
The Partnering with Consumers Standard recognises the importance of involving patients in their own care and providing clear communication to patients. This standard, together with the Clinical Governance Standard, underpins all the other standards.
Background to this standard
After more than 40 years of growing recognition and acceptance, consumer partnerships in health care are now viewed as integral to the development, implementation and evaluation of health policies, programs and services.1-3 Patient and consumer partnerships are also a pillar of person-centred care – that is, care that focuses on the relationship between a patient and a clinician, and recognises that trust, mutual respect and sharing of knowledge are needed for the best health outcomes.4
Patient and consumer partnerships should take many forms, at many levels
Different types of partnerships with patients and consumers exist within the healthcare system. These partnerships are not mutually exclusive, and are needed at all levels to ensure that a health service organisation achieves the best possible outcome for all parties.5 Partnerships with patients and consumers comprise many different, interwoven practices that reflect the three key levels at which partnerships are needed:
At the level of the individual, partnerships relate to the interaction between patients and clinicians when care is provided. This involves providing care that is respectful; sharing information in an ongoing way; working with patients, carers and families to make decisions and plan care; and supporting and encouraging patients in their own care and self-management.6
At the level of a service, department or program of care, partnerships relate to the organisation and delivery of care within specific areas. Patients, carers, families and consumers participate in the overall design of the service, department or program. They could be full members of quality improvement and redesign teams, including participating in planning, implementing and evaluating change.
At the level of the health service organisation, partnerships relate to the involvement of consumers in overall governance, policy and planning. This level overlaps with the previous level in that a health service organisation is made up of various services, departments and programs. Consumers and consumer representatives are full members of key organisational governance committees in areas such as patient safety, facility design, quality improvement, patient or family education, ethics and research. This level can also involve partnerships with local community organisations and members of local communities.
Supporting effective consumer partnerships means supporting multiple mechanisms of engagement. Meaningful methods of engagement range from representation on committees and boards, to contributions at focus groups, to feedback received through surveys or social media. When selecting methods of consumer participation, consider the diversity of the consumer population that uses, or may use, the services.1
Consumer partnerships should not be viewed in isolation, but as a continuum of activity. From partnering with consumers in their own care, to representation on boards or governance committees, consumer partnership is needed at multiple levels of healthcare delivery. Consumers need to be represented at the highest levels of governance for their input to have the greatest impact.1, 2
Consumer partnerships add value
Consumer partnerships add value to healthcare decision-making. Consumer involvement in the development, implementation and evaluation of health care contributes to2, 3:
- Appropriately targeted initiatives
- Efficient use of resources
- Improvement in the quality of care provided by a health service.
There is growing acceptance that practices supporting partnerships at the level of the individual – from communication and structured listening, through to shared decision making, self-management support and care planning – can improve the safety and quality of health care, improve patient outcomes and experience, and improve the performance of health service organisations.6
As consumer partnership becomes more embedded in the healthcare system, there is an increasing need to monitor and evaluate its impact. Monitoring, measuring and evaluating consumer partnerships – through mechanisms such as recording patient experience and patient-reported outcome measures – are vital to ensure that the partnerships are meeting the needs of the community and consumers.3
Organisational leadership and support are essential to nurture consumer partnerships
Regardless of the mechanisms used, all forms of consumer partnership require organisational commitment, support and appropriate resourcing. Organisational commitment and support can be demonstrated through the support of executive leadership and governing bodies. Strong leadership in support of consumer partnerships can lay a solid foundation for adopting partnerships at the service level. Appropriate resourcing may include consumer training, workforce roles that focus on nurturing consumer partnerships, and remuneration and reimbursement to support consumers to actively participate.1, 2
Consumer partnerships should be meaningful and not tokenistic. To maximise the contribution of partnerships, consumers need to be seen and treated as people with expert skills and knowledge. In the same way that clinicians and other organisational partners are respected for their areas of expertise, consumer partnerships need to be recognised and valued for their unique perspective on the patient experience.2
Many resources are available to help organisations of any size set up and support consumer partnerships
There are multiple successful approaches to partnering with consumers. Different health service organisations have different contexts and resources available to embed consumer partnerships in their systems, and partnering approaches can be adapted to the nature and context of the health service organisation. Although capacity and resource limitations may appear to pose a barrier to forming consumer partnerships, a simple approach to partnering can often be the most effective.