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The tips below summarize the learning and best practices shared by patients/ families and providers/ organizations during a webinar, hosted by Patients for Patient Safety Canada and the World Health Organization, and on two discussion boards (the World Health Organization Patients for Patient Safety community and the Institute for Patient and Safety Centred Care community).

One of the goals of engaging patients in patient safety and quality committees is to help ensure that the care delivered at the front line is patient centred. As part of patient safety and quality committees, patient representatives (known as champions, advisors or partners) possess a valuable and unique perspective which represents the sum of their personal experience as a user of the healthcare system, as a member of a patient group, and as a member of the community.

Patients can:

  • point to gaps between what is supposed to happen and what actually happens,
  • highlight imbalances of power and safety across the healthcare system,
  • identify gaps in knowledge and evidence that could lead to new research and initiatives,
  • shape discussions and decisions about programs, policies, practices,
  • identify and evaluate outcomes that matter to the patient, family and community, and
  • contribute to staff and organizational learning, growth and development.

Organizations, regions and systems are encouraged to set-up patient groups (often referred to as patient advisory groups) where clients/residents/patients/families/citizens with a desire to make care safer Can get involved. Members are provided with orientation, training and support throughout their journey as partners in patient safety and quality improvement efforts. The commitment to partner with patients and successes achieved should be made public to inspire and sustain engagement.   

Tips for patients/families

  • Consider your interest, skill and readiness to participate in such a committee as patient safety incidents that can trigger strong emotions or reactions.
  • Get answers to all your questions and be clear on what is expected of you before making the decision to participate. Meaningful and fruitful collaboration is the result of a good understanding of why and how you can contribute.
  • Ask that at least one other patient representative is part of this work (if not already confirmed) so that you can support each other in this process.
  • Participate in training, orientation and smaller projects before participating in patient safety and quality committees.
  • Ensure you understand the confidentiality and privacy aspects related to this work.
  • Ask questions and provide feedback throughout the collaboration especially related to what you believe is the impact of your contribution on patient safety outcomes.
  • Be polite but assertive when you contribute the patient perspective.
  • Let the chair of the committee or liaison know if what, and how you contribute is different than what you expected.
  • Provide feedback to ensure your experience and the experience of other advisors is the best it can be.

Tips for providers/organizations

  • Recruit experienced patients who have been members of a patient council/ group for a number of years.
  • Organizations where patient participation is already the norm before engaging patients in patient safety committees have a better experience.
  • If the committee has concerns, begin by having patients join a task force, a smaller project, or just observe. Also consider choosing patients who would be seen as peers by committee members (e.g. same demographic, education level) especially in cases patient engagement at this level is new.
  • Offer an opportunity for the patient(s) and committee chair to meet before they make the decision to join a patient safety committee (it is recommended to have two patient advisors participate).
  • The chair of the committee or staff liaison should meet with patients prior to their participation to welcome, orient them to the committee members and the work, and to be their contact person. Provide a glossary of terms and background documents at this meeting.
  • A staff liaison (e.g. lead of the patient group) should meet with the committee ahead of time to explain why and how the patient representatives were selected, oriented (e.g. confidentiality, privacy legislation) and ways they can contribute. This is an opportunity to provide examples of successful engagement and point to supports available to the committee and advisors including regular check-in to ensure all are going well.
  • The committee chair should formally introduce the patients and encourage dialogue and collaboration throughout.
  • Identify and offer committee members and patients opportunities to update and/or report back about their work and its impact to others. Testimonials from patients and committee members, especially when the partnership resulted in improvement, are powerful tools to educate about patient engagement, celebrate of successes and potentially recruit new members.

Expect that a successful partnership results in more opportunities for patients to partner either in other patient safety areas or at higher organizational levels (e.g. board). Strong leadership together with patient/family engagement is an integral part in sustainable change.


​Archive: February 24, 2016

Patient engagement in safety committees


At the end of the session patient/family champions as well as health authorities will understand different approaches to patient engagement in patient safety and quality committees (e.g. dealing with incident reporting, root cause analysis, developing policies and procedures) and how patient engagement impacted patient safety and quality outcomes. The participants and presenters are invited to present examples, tools, and leading practices so the participants will leave with at least one practical idea to implement.



Speakers and moderator:

​Alethse De la Torre Rosas
Infectious diseases specialist at the hospital epidemiology and quality of care division,
National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition Salvador Zubiran,
Ciudad de México, Mexico
​Malori Keller
Kaizen (Continuous Improvement) Specialist – Patient Engagement
Saskatchewan Health Quality Council
Saskatoon, SK, Canada
Theresa Malloy-Miller
Patient Champion, Patients for Patient Safety Canada
London, ON, Canada

Designed by patient/family champions for champions this interactive webinar is offered by the World Health Organization Patients for Patient Safety Programme in partnership with Patients for Patient Safety Canada. For this session the term patient safety champion includes any individual that volunteers as a patient/family representative in programs, groups, networks and/or organizations working to improve quality and safety in healthcare. The session is designed to allow for conversation among participants, so be prepared to contribute to the dialogue verbally or via chat. The slides, recording and a summary of ideas presented will be publicly available after the session here.

For more information contact​