Consumer advisory committees: Looking out for our One Care members

November 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

By John Ruiz, Consumer Liaison for One Care, Commonwealth Care Alliance

A few months ago in Dually Noted, I wrote about the launch of the One Care consumer advisory committees. At the time, I explained that advisory committee meetings would enable One Care members, their families, and caregivers to participate in the development of the program and that their expertise was critical to the program’s success.

One Care Advisory Committees

In the months since that post, we’ve held meetings throughout the state, and we have found that the committees are playing a critical role in improving One Care for our members. They are also helping Commonwealth Care Alliance improve member communications and policies.

Solving early One Care problems
Four advisory committee meetings were held in May and July in Boston, as well as in the western, central, and northeastern regions of the state. One of the major concerns that came out of these meetings was that many members needed more clarity from us about next steps following the comprehensive assessments.

In my role as Consumer Liaison for One Care, I brought the group’s feedback to a team of Commonwealth Care Alliance senior leaders. We discussed the issue and are developing strategies and tools to help our assessors better communicate about what happens next, including care plan development and care manager assignment. This important change is the direct result of the conversations that took place during our consumer advisory committee meetings.

Sharing behavioral health information
Recently, these groups gave us insight into another important concern: the sharing of behavioral health information with primary care professionals. Some stakeholders are not in favor of sharing this information, fearing that a member might be stigmatized. This does happen. Stigma is a very real problem, and it affects people in various ways, including causing people to not seek the care they need.

However, at consumer advisory meetings in July, our committee members expressed a different opinion. To my surprise, only one person said that they were apprehensive about sharing behavioral health records with hospital emergency rooms.  Nobody said that they “absolutely” did not want information to be shared. Instead, 47% of those who participated said that everyone involved in their care should have access to their files in order for them to get the best possible care.  The other 53% of those who participated said that they wouldn’t mind sharing behavioral health information as long as they could meet everyone on their care team in person.

Again, I brought this information back to senior leaders at Commonwealth Care Alliance. When we meet with MassHealth and other stakeholders to discuss this important topic in the future, we will be sure to present our members’ views.

Why consumer involvement works
Organizations like Commonwealth Care Alliance are required to have some mechanism in place for getting consumer feedback. But we don’t do it because it’s a requirement. We do it because we believe that our members are experts in their own lives, and our expertise is simply not complete without theirs.  We know it matters to have our One Care program vetted by the very people it serves.

As I said previously, our One Care Consumer advisory committees have been successful in shaping policies and procedures.  A number of factors have led to our success. First, our groups are representative of the communities we serve in terms of age, gender, disability type, race/ethnicity, and sexual orientation.

Second, I go in to every meeting with a presentation on the topic of the month, which I get from the internal committee. I provide context for the members to give their best feedback, and I try to connect their experience to the topic.

And lastly, it is extremely important for committee members to know that their involvement is meaningful.  Showing them how their feedback is being used to make things better motivates them to stay involved.  At the July meetings, for example, I explained how their feedback from May would improve our communication not just with them but with all One Care members.

Watch for more updates on our One Care consumer advisory committee meetings on Dually Noted.

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