Engaging Patients as Partners in Care

Published 4 December 2018. Last updated 13 December 2018.

This project brings together patients, families, carers and healthcare staff to act as partners in care and treatment planning.

View a poster from the Centre for Healthcare Redesign graduation, December 2018.


By July 2019 there will be a reduction of 25% in the number of complaints relating to communication and treatment within the medical ward of South East Regional Hospital (SERH).


  • Patients and families are empowered to drive care outcomes
  • Reduced risk to patient safety
  • Care is patient-centric and recognises the role of carers and families
  • Improved results in experience based surveys of staff and patients
  • Improved communication across healthcare teams
  • Better collaboration in preparing for discharge


The executive leadership team at SERH identified that the patients’ experience of care impacted their clinical outcomes. This was evidenced by three sentinel events and nine clinical reviews relating to communication and treatment. These occurred within the medical ward of SERH.

Feedback received from patients, families and carers indicated that communication, treatment and access (timely care) did not meet their expectations. Data (patient surveys) showed that patients were not actively involved in care planning.  This resulted in 89 complaints directly related to communication, treatment, and access (timely care) between March 2016 and March 2018. The analysis of these complaints relating to communication, treatment, and access (timely care) was consistent with the previous data collected.

Your Say staff survey results for the same period (March 2016 to March 2018) highlighted poor staff culture and a disconnected team that lacked leadership and refined work processes. This led to impaired performance and a loss of organisational reputation.


The project team will be implementing two solutions.

  1. The use of patient communication boards by staff and patients, families and carers to encourage communication and shared partnership in care
  2. Interdisciplinary team rounding at the bedside, where the patients, families and carers are key partners in the process.  These routine ward processes were previously identified as being poorly executed and communications rarely included patients and families.

Both solutions will be co-designed and implemented with patients, families, carers, and staff. This includes co-designing key principles, establishing ways of working, education, and execution.

The project team collaborated with other ward project initiatives (including PwC’s PERFORM program) that were seen to have a common purpose. As a result the executive sponsor and project team re-evaluated the efficacy of the solutions and adjusted the implementation process and timetable accordingly.

Implementation has been adjusted to complement the PERFORM program. The patient communication board implementation will commence in February 2019, and completed and evaluated by April 2019.  The interdisciplinary team rounding implementation will commence in March 2019, and will be completed and evaluated by June 2019.


Implementation – The project is ready for implementation or is currently being implemented, piloted or tested.


Project Timeframe: February 2018 to June 2019.

Solution 1: Patient information whiteboards - key milestones
Project planning10 April 2018
Diagnostics7 June 2018
Solutions planning31 July 2018
Redesigning the whiteboard layout using co-design principles15 Feb 2019
Establish a standard and a way of working for the use of whiteboards that includes patient and families8 March 2019
Implementation5 April 2019
Evaluation24 April 2019
Solution 2: Interdisciplinary rounding - key milestones
Project planning10 April 2018
Diagnostics7 June 2018
Solutions planning31 July 2018
Redesign the clinical team ward round to include interdisciplinary team, patients and families15 March 2019
Establish a standard and a “way of working” for interdisciplinary rounding that includes patients and families12 April 2019
Implementation26 April 2019
Evaluation24 June 2019

Implementation sites

Medical ward of South East Regional Hospital.


Centre for Healthcare Redesign


The evaluation of both solutions will run from 5 April 2019 through to 24 June 2019.

Lessons learnt

  • The competing priorities of the medical ward staff with other projects happening within the ward, contributed to the reluctance of staff to engage.
  • The introduction of PERFORM during the diagnostic phase has meant that the solutions and implementation plan needed to be adjusted.
  • The varied work schedules of the project team, without dedicated project time, caused unavoidable delay throughout the process. Having ongoing support for the project is imperative, never stop talking about it.

Further reading

  • Braithwaite J, Herkes J, Ludlow K, et al. Association between organisational and workplace cultures, and patient outcomes: systematic review. BMJ Open. 2017:7(10);1-11.
  • NSW Health. Multidisciplinary Ward Rounds. A Resource, Sydney: NSW Health; 2011.
  • Sehgal NL, Green A, Vldyarthi AR, et al. Whiteboards as a communication tool in the hospital setting: A survey of practices and recommendations. Journal of hospital medicine. 2010:5(4);234-239.
  • Walton V, Hogden AaGD. Ward rounds, participants, roles and perceptions: literature review. International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance. 2016:29(4);364-379.
  • Clinical Excellence Commission. In Safe Hands.


    Renata Sheehan
    Manager Community Engagement
    Southern NSW Local Health District
    Phone: 0477 322 107

    Vanessa Humphreys
    After Hours Nurse Manager
    Southern NSW Local Health District
    Phone: 02 6491 9999

    Simone Shaw
    Clinical Governance Unit Business
    Bega Valley Health Service
    Southern NSW Local Health District
    Phone: 0437 605 299


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