By: Kate Goodrich, MD MHS, Director, Center for Clinical Standards and Quality, CMS
At the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), we are working with numerous partners to transform our health care delivery system to one that delivers better health outcomes while spending dollars more wisely. In November of 2015, we updated the CMS Quality Strategy, incorporating the ongoing work to shift Medicare from paying for the number of services provided to paying for better outcomes for patients. We know that a key strategy to achieving better outcomes is to meaningfully engage patients as partners in decisions about their health care. Therefore, one of the six goals outlined in this strategy is: Strengthen person and family engagement as partners in care. Today, we are excited to announce the release of the CMS Person and Family Engagement Strategy, which we believe can lead to significant progress toward this important goal.
What does person and family engagement mean? We view this as patients and families being part of the health care team by working collaboratively with their doctor or other health care professional to be active partners when making decisions about their health.
Why is this important? Because consideration of the health, values, and goals of the individual in consultation with the entire health care team leads to an improved experience and better care. When people feel responsible for their own health and are partners with their providers in goal-setting and decision-making, they are much more likely to achieve their health care goals.
- If individuals feel their beliefs, desires, and culture are considered in their care, they are more likely to follow their care plan.
- If individuals are able to communicate effectively with their providers and have a prominent role in making health care decisions, they will receive better care, can more effectively manage their health, and may receive appropriate preventive care while relying less on emergency or urgent care.
The CMS Person and Family Engagement Strategy will serve as a guide for the implementation of person and family engagement principles and strategies throughout CMS programs. This strategy will expand the awareness and practice of person and family engagement by providing the following goals and objectives:
- Goal 1: Actively encourage person and family engagement along the continuum of care within the broader context of health and well-being in the communities in which people live.
- Goal 2: Promote tools and strategies that reflect person and/or family values and preferences and enable them to actively engage in directing and self-managing their care.
- Goal 3: Create an environment where persons and their families work in partnership with their health care providers to develop their health and wellness goals informed by sound evidence and aligned with their values and preferences.
- Goal 4: Develop meaningful measures and tools aimed at improving the experience and outcomes of care for persons, caregivers, and families. Also, identify person and family engagement best practices and techniques in the field that are ready for widespread scaling and national integration.
This Strategy emphasizes that person and family engagement goes beyond informed consent. It is about including the patients voice in policy and program planning. It is about proactive, effective communication and partnered decision-making with patients, families, and caregivers. It is about building a care relationship based on trust and inclusion of patients’ beliefs, values, preferences, and culture which can even lead to a reduction in health care disparities. Health care decision-making should not always be limited to the patient and provider. It is essential to include family members, care-givers, and close friends in the conversation about health when the patient desires inclusion of others. As delivery system reform efforts move the nation to focus on the quality of care and not the quantity of care received, person and family engagement is an essential part of a health care system that delivers high quality care, spends dollars more wisely, and improves the health of people in their communities.
 Epstein RM, Street RL, Jr. Patient-Centered Communication in Cancer Care: Promoting Healing and Reducing Suffering. National Cancer Institute, NIH Publication No. 07-6225. Bethesda, MD, 2007.