Involving Consumers in Your COVID Response
Involving consumers in strategic and operational decisions in healthcare has never been more important. In an unprecedented situation such as COVID-19, consumers are a key stakeholder and an essential source of advice and guidance in your work. This guide is designed to support you to work with consumers and carers to co-design strategies and operational plans that respond to COVID-19 in a consumer-centred way.
- It’s essential to involve consumers in key strategic and operational COVID-19 decisions and communication. If you involve clinicians in the planning and decision-making, then also involve consumers with lived experience of your health services.
- Use established networks to find consumers quickly and easily; contact your local HHS engagement staff and Health Consumers Queensland to find out more.
- Consumers will help ensure that you are making the right decisions as they will understand the potential community impacts. Consumers will also help with messaging of those decisions.
- Your engagement doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s important that you try.
Nothing About Us Without Us
Whenever decisions impact consumers, consumer and carer representatives need to be involved. This includes all strategic decisions and the development of communications including:
- outpatient/ED/elective surgery demand management
- ethical decision making frameworks
- workforce planning
- advice to patients or carers who are currently in the health system, especially those at risk of infection
- communications and media on any of above (statewide and local)
Remember: Early engagement is best. Outcomes will be better if all stakeholders including consumers are involved early to co-design solutions together.
Who to involve?
The needs of all Queenslanders must be considered in COVID-19 planning, with a particular focus on those this will impact most, either through their increased vulnerability to COVID-19 or reduced access to health services. Consider involving:
- Older people
- People living with pre-existing medical conditions/multiple chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes, CF
- People who live in remote Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities
- Culturally and linguistically diverse populations
- People living with disability
- In-patients and out-patients
- People living in regional, rural and remote areas
- Parents of immunosuppressed children and/or with chronic conditions
- Survivors of COVID-19
- Consumers experienced at partnering, such as:
- Consumers partnering on statewide Queensland Health projects
- Health Consumers Queensland Consumer Advisory Group
- Health Consumers Collaborative of Queensland
- Statewide HHS Consumer Advisory Group (CAG) leaders group
- Queensland Hospital and Health Service networks
- Queensland Primary Health Networks Consumer and Community Groups
- Representatives from condition-specific organisations
How do I find consumers quickly?
Developing partnerships with consumers is normally long-term relationship-building work. However, in times of crisis, relationships can often develop faster than normal, and in an urgent situation it is appropriate to look directly to established groups to source suitable consumers.
- Contact your organisation’s consumer engagement team or staff member. Health Consumers Queensland can help connect you with already established consumer groups/networks.
- Look to established consumer groups within your organisation. Some of those consumers may be suitable, and already have a relationship with your organisation.
- A COVID-19 consumer group already established in your organisation.
- Contact established community groups or condition-specific organisations. Kidney Health Australia and Ethnic Communities Council of Australia are examples. Umbrella organisations that have oversight of numerous smaller organisations can be especially good points of contact.
- You may already partner with consumers on a group or steering committee. Ask them to join you.
How do I engage with consumers when we are minimising face-to-face contact?
You can use simple options such as video calls (such as Zoom or Teams), emails or phone. Ask your consumer engagement team or the consumers themselves what methods they recommend.
Keep the conversation going
Keep the consumers you are working with informed. This can be as simple and quick as 3 dot points at the beginning of your next email to outline what has happened since you last communicated and what next steps are planned. Provide an open channel of communication so health consumers can contact you and provide information and feedback in real-time from the community.
Key principles for creating strong partnerships
Following these basic principles will ensure your partnership with consumers is authentic and productive.
Partnership: working together to shape service delivery to better meet consumer and community needs.
Respect and dignity: consumers will know more than you about their personal situation, and that of their community. Be open to that, and value that contribution.
Inclusive: if people are affected by a decision they deserve to be included in that decision. Include as many voices as possible, especially those with high social or health needs, or those who are seldom heard.
Improvement: Use the consumers’ contribution to make the COVID-19 response as good as it can be.
Health Consumers Queensland recommends consumers are paid for their contribution, although every HHS has their own policy. See Health Consumers Queensland’s guidelines for information. https://tinyurl.com/HCQremuneration
Your consumer partnerships are likely to involve a series of short communications. If this is the case:
- Estimate that time at the end of the month, and make one payment to cover the total, or
- Ask consumers to keep a tally of their time and send you their hours at the end of the month.
- Talk to consumers about these options before you start so it’s clear what you will cover.
Health Consumers Queensland has produced resources to help with consumer partnerships, including A Guide for Health Staff Partnering with Consumers, and The Consumer and Community Engagement Framework. You can download these at https://www.hcq.org.au/guides/