Keith Taylor: PFAs at the Heart of Cultural Change in Healthcare


Keith TaylorTHUNDER BAY – Healthbeat – Keith Taylor said the reason he decided to become one of the first Patient and Family Advisors (PFAs) at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre almost three years ago is quite simple. “I want to make a difference,” Keith said.

“I’m going to be back here – I know it. Just about every person who lives in this region unfortunately will walk through those doors at least once in their life. I think it’s important to do everything we can to make improvements for the next patient walking through the door,” he said.

The PFA program is part of the Health Sciences Centre’s philosophy of Patient and Family Centred Care (PFCC). There are currently over 76 PFAs – all volunteers – sitting on various committees and working groups to help staff and management with policy making issues. Several initiatives like the changes to the visiting hours policy and developing the Pediatrics Tour for children scheduled for surgery have come directly from PFA input.

It helps the Health Sciences Centre administration and staff improve the healthcare experience for patients and their families, he added.

“You can’t get any further than the four walls you’re working within, so sometimes you need a different perspective,” Keith said. “Who knows the health system better than those who use it?”

That’s exactly the idea behind the initiative. Keith said that when he first heard about PFAs, he thought he’d be working directly with patients. By providing his opinion on the programs and initiatives happening at the Health Sciences Centre he is actually having a bigger impact on more patients. PFCC in general represents a huge cultural change in the way healthcare is delivered, and PFAs are at the heart of that.

The approach seems to be working. Keith said he sees the turnaround in patient satisfaction scores that happened about the time the PFA initiative was launched as proof of that impact.

“We went from below the provincial averages with our satisfaction rating to the top of the heap by a long shot,” Taylor said. “Our patients are much, much happier than they were three years ago.”

Last year, due to the growing number of PFAs, they organized into a self-governing group with Keith as PFA Chair. He said that PFAs work closely with management, but it is important to have their own forum to connect with each other and talk about where they should focus they’re efforts to improve the patient experience.

Keith said that personally he feels it’s important to keep connected with other PFAs. After being a PFA for three years, he is taking conscious steps to ensure he keeps a “patient’s perspective”.

“I try to resist the temptation to become an insider,” he said. “I want to keep looking in from the outside.”

Keith is retired now due to health issues, which frees up time to sit on several different committees as well as chair the PFAs. He said that he takes basically the same approach to his new volunteer position as he did when he was working in the car business.

“It’s all about seeing the results,” Keith said. “I always ask, ‘How are we doing, how are we affecting patients here?’ Then you feel good that yeah, I am making a difference.”

You can become a volunteer Patient and Family Advisor too. Please call Bonnie Nicholas at (807) 684-6020 or visit the Health Sciences Centre website for more information.

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Graham Strong has worked with clients in a number of different industries including healthcare, legal, PR, retail, software, IT, B2B companies, education, direct mail, and others.