Patient, family and caregiver engagement and partnerships

Healthcare organizations worldwide are tapping into the expertise of patients, families, and caregivers. The goal is to better understand their experiences in order to drive improvements in the safety and quality of healthcare.

Engaged patients have better health outcomes and experiences. And there is growing evidence that purposeful patient engagement is fundamental to transforming areas of the health system, including policy, care delivery, research and education. It is well recognized that partnering with patients, families and caregivers offers different insights that can lead to improvements in health care, and health systems, that better meet their needs.1

The Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement supports and implements initiatives that embed patient, family and caregiver engagement and partnerships in the design, delivery and evaluation of health services. We work with our partners to enhance the readiness and capacity of healthcare organizations to become engagement-capable environments.

Leadership in patient engagement 

CFHI is recognized as a leader in patient, family and caregiver engagement. Since 2010, we have led collaboratives and championed partnerships with patients and families to improve quality across the continuum of care.2

Our journey in patient, family and caregiver engagement began with the Patient Engagement Projects (PEP) initiative. In 2010 and 2011, PEP supported 17 projects across Canada that were led by healthcare providers who engaged patients to improve service design and delivery. These projects led to improvements in access, patient safety, efficiency and other quality-related domains.

The PEP initiative evolved to become the Partnering with Patients and Families Collaborative. In 2014 and 2015, this collaborative provided education, coaching, funding and other support to 22 teams to partner in meaningful ways with patients and families on quality improvement initiatives.

Continuing to build on our work, in 2015 we launched the Better Together Campaign, in partnership with the Institute for Patient and Family-Centered Care in the United States and leading healthcare organizations across Canada. Throughout the campaign, organizations delivering healthcare were supported to adapt and implement improvements in family presence policies.3 In 2016, we launched an e-collaborative (Better Together: Partnering with Families) to support 12 teams to adopt and implement these new policies. By 2017 more than 50 organizations from across Canada publicly pledged to review and improve their family presence policies. Since then we have held Policy Roundtables and continued to engage and work with those involved. 

In 2018, CFHI launched the Bridge-to-Home spread collaborative to focus to on care transitions from the perspective of patients and caregivers. Together with patient, family, and caregiver partners, teams implemented a patient-oriented care transitions bundle to ensure patients and caregivers had the knowledge and understanding they needed to improve their experience and confidence to transition well from hospital back to home or the community.

Through learning from all this work, the patient, family and caregiver engagement and partnerships portfolio has grown and expanded across all CFHI programming. We have supported more than 300 teams across Canada to develop organizational capacity for patient and family engagement in quality improvement and system redesign - and, in essence, become “engagement capable environments.”

We believe in leading by example:

  • We co-developed Engagement Guiding Principles together with people with lived experience, advisors and providers, that articulate the way we are committed to approaching our work in partnership and collaboration with patients, family and caregivers.
  • Patient partners and advisors are employees at CFHI and leading many initiatives across the organization. In addition, we continue to work with many other patient partners with our improvement teams.
  • We continue to enhance staff capability for meaningful and purposeful patient, family and caregiver engagement by providing mentoring and coaching opportunities.
  • We continually review and co-develop internal CFHI processes – such as our contracting process, patient scholarships and patient recognition framework – together with patient partners, to ensure they are clear and relevant.

Initiating culture change

Patient engagement and partnerships are more than just any one project or program. It is about culture change, where patient engagement is more than an expectation - it is innate and an instinct - rather than the exception. This culture change balances the power dynamics between providers and patients and fully recognizes and appreciates the expertise of lived experience that patients, families and caregivers bring as true partners in healthcare.

What We Do

Better Together

What We Do


Innovations, Tools & Resources

Patient Engagement Resource Hub

1 Institute for Patient and Family Centered Care. (n.d.) Better Together: Partnering with Families - "Facts and Figures" About Family Presence and Participation. (n.d.). Retrieved April 10, 2017, from 

2 We refer to the continuum of care as the delivery of healthcare over a period of time.

3 Family presence policies enable patients to designate family members and loved ones who can stay by their side 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Family presence policies are a practical step for organizations to implement patient and family-centred practices that enhance quality, safety, and patient and family experience of care.