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Europe Regional Medical Command officials are establishing a program that will enable patients to give their input on everything from scheduling appointments to the color of exam room walls.

The program, called “patient- and family-centered care,” will bring patient advisers into meetings where the inner workings of ERMC’s health care facilities are decided. The advisers, selected from communities across Europe, also will act as liaisons between hospital staff and patients.

First used at several hospitals in the U.S., the program calls upon doctors to be more attentive to questions from patients and family members, said Lt. Col. Ethel Roberson, deputy director of ERMC’s clinical operations division.

“Patient advisers will not have their own personal agenda,” Roberson said. “They should be able to look beyond their personal issues and ask themselves: ‘If I do this, how much will it help the people with the same problem?’ ”

Since 1993, about 130 patients and their families have served on 45 committees at hospitals with the Medical Center and Children’s Medical Center of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. Patient advisers were involved in the creation of a breast health suite that focused on the overall health of women, rather than just diagnostics.

Advice from three patients with neurological conditions also helped create a neuroscience center that has drawn favorable reports and helped reduce the length of patients’ stays after neurosurgery.

ERMC officials hope the program will provide similar improvements at clinics across Europe and at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Each facility has designated a program coordinator trained in the fundamentals of patient- and family-centered care, and those coordinators are now searching for patient advisers.

Roberson said they hope to have the advisers selected and on committees by March.

The committees will offer patients a place to express concerns outside of town hall meetings, where complaints aren’t always directed to the right people in charge.

The advisory committees could also help facilities set schedules when there is an influx of patients, such as during physicals for school sports, said Phyllis Toor, patient- and family-centered care coordinator for the Heidelberg Health Center and outlying clinics at Mannheim, Coleman Barracks and Stuttgart.

“Historically, we’ve asked the patient to fit in our system,” she said. “What we want to have is our system fit the patient’s need and the family’s need.”

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