Tips for Successful Family Partnerships During the Health Care Experience

A child’s family is their primary source of strength and support. Families have expertise that make them integral partners of the health care team. Research shows that youth- and family-centered care leads to better health outcomes, wiser allocation of resources, and greater patient and family satisfaction. The following tips were developed by family leaders who shared what’s most important to them.

  1. Empower - Try to neutralize the inherent power dynamics. Empower each child and family by discussing their strengths. Build confidence and make informed decisions about their health. Respect racial, gender, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic diversity and how these attributes influence the way families experience and perceive care.
  2. Implement - Practice partnership and shared decision-making. Demonstrate openness and transparency and provide access to information in understandable language so families can learn and participate more effectively in their care. Family participation in developing the treatment plan typically leads to better adherence, trust, and true care coordination. Schedule time to communicate with families when it is convenient for them to discuss their care and consider using available tools like secure email and text messaging.
  3. Communicate - Take time to ask what is important to the child and family with open-ended questions, and really listen to what they say, preferably seated or eye-to-eye, as culturally appropriate. Appearing rushed or hurried has a negative effect on the patient experience. Engage patient and family advisors in developing clear and useful patient communications, considering cultural differences, socioeconomics, gender, literacy level, primary language, or ability. Develop creative ways to solicit meaningful feedback from patients and families and co-design solutions for identified issues.
  4. Support Family Leadership – Meaningfully collaborate with and develop a range of ways for families to assess and advise on patient and family-centered care, workflows, barriers, and services in the medical home. Encourage and facilitate participation at all levels of health care in patient/family advisory councils, focus groups, and family-to-family and peer support.  Invite and prepare families to participate in state or local advocacy efforts related to child health. Consider compensating families for their travel, child care, time, and participation.
  5. Connect - Recognize the importance of high-quality, community-based services. Work with families and other child serving systems and providers to develop a list of resources, create connections and make referrals. Collaborate with families to identify gaps in community supports and work to create new pathways to resources that are missing in the community.
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American Academy of Pediatrics