The role of health consumer representatives
The role of Health Consumer Representatives and why we need them
A health consumer representative is a health consumer who has taken up a specific role to provide advice on behalf of consumers, with the overall aim of improving healthcare.
Health consumer participation is growing
Health consumers have been involved in planning and decision making within Australian health services at a growing rate over last 10 years. This is partly because consumers are becoming better informed about their rights and are seeking out opportunities to participate. It is also because the evidence is growing that consumer participation results in services which are better designed to meet patient and consumer needs and leads to better health outcomes for patients.
The consumer perspective brings balance to health service decision making
Bringing a consumer perspective into decision making enables an important balance which supports the needs of all stakeholders. A consumer can be a patient, a family member or a carer. The consumer can represent the needs from the patient perspective and balance the often dominant views presented by clinicians, administrators and other health professionals.
Consumer advocacy contributes towards safety, quality and patient-centred care
Patient-centred care must be the focus of all health services because it improves the patient experience and leads to better health outcomes (Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care 2011). The Australian Safety & Quality Framework for Health Care states that health services must learn from patient and carer experiences. Consumer advocacy plays a major role in promoting safety and quality in health service provision.
Consumers need to be well supported and involved early
Patients and families need to be supported and encouraged to make their views and experiences known. Health services must demonstrate their commitment to this process in order to pass regular accreditation. Consumers can be involved in the health system in various ways, but the most meaningful is when they are engaged as equal partners in a process from the very early stages.
Consumers can contribute towards many aspects of the planning, delivery and evaluation of healthcare
Consumers provide valuable information about how services should be designed and delivered to best meet the needs of people using those services. Examples of this include the development of a new service, planning for a new hospital, the development of new information literature, the design and implementation of patient satisfaction surveys, influencing the design of medicine packaging or even participating in staff selection processes.
Health consumer representatives bring the consumer perspective to healthcare and are catalysts for better patient-centred care.