The Truth Squad

Mercy Health’s Continuous Improvement Through Two Patient Advisory Councils

Mercy Health is an organization with a sacred commitment to placing patient needs first, often referred to as patient-centered care.

Part of the Patient and Family Advisory Council in Muskegon

So it is no surprise that in both Grand Rapids and Muskegon, patients have been invited to become members of patient councils that offer practical advice and feedback to leaders in the organization. In each location, council members — who are volunteers — and Mercy Health staff are invited to propose topics for each council’s discussion and feedback.

In Grand Rapids, the Mercy Health Physician Partners Patient Advisory Council (PAC) consists of members who meet bimonthly. In Muskegon, the name of the overarching council is the Mercy Health Patient and Family Council (PAFC), which meets monthly. Both councils have generated their share of innovative ideas that have led to positive changes at Mercy Health.

The MHPP Patient Advisory Board in Grand Rapids

With honest discussion and respect for each member’s point of view, productive dialogue results, especially since members participate due to their passion for quality health care and for making their community “the best.”

What follows are two tangible examples — one in Muskegon and one in Grand Rapids — of how council members have improved customer service in their communities. Mercy Health is grateful for the tireless  support and enthusiastic participation of all dedicated council members.




Development of the Patient Notepad in Muskegon

Muskegon’s Patient and Family Advisory Council member Dan Maiden

A charter member and chairperson of the Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC), Dan Maiden knows Mercy Health well. His wife is employed by Mercy Health, and he personally experienced a barrier to care that resulted in emergency surgery.

With that event behind him — and a positive outcome from the surgery and hospital experience — Maiden was happy to join the council, which was being formed by Mary Carlson, director of service excellence and facilitator of the PFAC,  to give patients more input regarding care at Mercy Health.

“Members were invited to find a way to improve the patient experience by giving patients more of a voice,” said Maiden. “Being able to offer the perspective of a patient in some of the strategies and practices in our health care system is rewarding, especially the patient notepad project.”

In 2015 the council discussed how to improve communication between hospital patients and their physicians and nurses, and in the end, the group came up with a concrete solution: the patient notepad.



The Patient Notepad in Muskegon

“Often when you’re in the hospital you’re anxious,” said Maiden. “If you have a way to collect your thoughts when you’re not anxious and later be able to have a conversation with your physician based on the notes you’ve made, the outcome will be better.”

The council wanted to keep the notepad very simple, so it didn’t get lost among the items near the bedside.

“We piloted it first on one floor at Mercy Hospital, with the help of the Process Excellence team, before offering it to all inpatients. Staff tell us that patients use it often, and patients have mentioned that it is an effective bedside tool that gives them more ownership in their health care.”

Mission accomplished!




Making the Wait More Pleasant in Grand Rapids

Patient Advisory Council member Alli Metz

Patient Advisory Council member Alli Metz continues to be amazed that her suggestions for patient waiting areas became reality. They were incorporated into Mercy Health’s Rockford facility in 2013, which was being built at the time.

Her ideas came from a trip that Metz had taken with her young daughter while waiting during a layover at LaGuardia Airport in New York.

“The airport had just redesigned their waiting areas, which made our stay much more pleasant. Even with a young child, the time flew by. I’ve spent a lot of time in waiting rooms for personal and family medical appointments, so I noticed the innovations immediately and thought about how they could be used in medical facilities,” said Metz.

One of the first changes she saw was how the seating was arranged for passenger comfort first — and no longer looking like “a bus terminal.”

There were small groups of chairs arranged so people could face each other; café-style seating with high tables and chairs; seating around desk-level tables for people who wanted to spread out and work; as well as individual seating in traditional rows. In addition, Metz was delightfully surprised by how the designers included “plenty of electrical plugs for phones, computers and tablets.”

Could such ideas could be incorporated into waiting areas at hospitals and doctor’s offices in the future? Metz wondered.

Patient Advisory Council Facilitator Teresa Dittmer personally passed along Metz’s ideas to leaders who were involved in the design of a new Mercy Health facility in Rockford.



It wasn’t too late to incorporate Metz’s innovations into the plan for the building, and within a couple of months of making her suggestion, Metz learned that Mercy Health’s patient waiting area in Rockford would feature her ideas!

“Change is usually so slow. It was wonderful to see how quickly change could happen. Once it opened, I actually went to see the waiting area with my husband,” she said.

Patients, family members and visitors now enjoy the “vibe” at MHPP Rockford. The varied seating arrangement gives people a sense of both community and personal space. People can face each other and have a conversation or sit at a table to complete paperwork, rather than use a clip board.


Ask anyone — it’s not just millennials who appreciate the Wi-Fi and outlets with USB charging ports that were incorporated into the facility’s design. Adolescents and children who are waiting for parents and siblings enjoy these innovations too.

As a college professor, Metz values innovation, creativity and changing with the times. She has remained on the council because it truly is about putting the needs of the patient first…just like Mercy Health.

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