Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority’s PFAC: A Driving Force for Community Healthcare Improvement

The Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority (CIHA) is dedicated to providing high-quality healthcare services to the community. A unique aspect of this effort is the Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC), a group of individuals committed to ensuring the community’s voice is heard in every aspect of healthcare delivery. With eleven community members and two dedicated CIHA staff members, the PFAC committee plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of healthcare for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.


During their first meeting of 2024, PFAC members were tasked with reflecting on issues and accomplishments the group tackled in 2023 which ranged from helping shape policies and procedures for CIHA patients to volunteer to participate in community events such as Halloween events with the EBCI Tribal Option department.


PFAC’s Mission Statement established, “The Patient Family Advisory Council is dedicated to assuring the delivery of the highest standards of comprehensive and compassionate health care by CIHA, which they do through providing CIHA with a valuable and much-needed perspective—the community’s perspective.


PFAC members spent 2023 serving as a venue for patients and families to actively participate in a positive way to change the experience of care at CIHA through listening to patients and incorporating their feedback into everyday encounters.


A specific focus of PFAC members in 2023 was to address issues surrounding rising patient no-show rates and missed appointments. PFAC brainstormed and offered a variety of strategies for health care providers to implement at CIHA to reduce missed appointments including sending patients calendar invitations, via Gmail and other channels, utilizing reminder calls and appointment confirmation calls as well as text message and email reminders. The strategies PFAC proposed, paired with their suggestion to increase education for patients on the detrimental impact that no-shows have on the healthcare system. resulted in an improvement in the organization’s no-show rates and increased efficiency.


One of the core functions of the PFAC committee is to identify existing best practices in healthcare. By collaborating with CIHA staff, they work tirelessly to find the most effective and efficient ways to provide healthcare services to the community. In 2023, this was evident in the PFAC’s work surrounding advocating for shorter wait times for patients. Because of communication with various community members, PFAC brought it to the attention of hospital leadership that there were concerns about the anxiety and troubles with waiting for results from scans and other tests. As a result of this collaborative effort, the hospital reduces wait times through adjusting office hours to accommodate those that work or have other issues.


Perhaps one of the most significant contributions of the PFAC committee is their ability to provide valuable recommendations for improvements in the healthcare experience. Their feedback is a driving force behind positive changes within CIHA. CIHA’s PFAC actively collaborates with CIHA staff on patient and family education initiatives. They ensure that patients and their families are well-informed about their healthcare options and rights, empowering them to make informed decisions about their health. To effectively meet this goal, PFAC members invite CIHA departments to monthly meetings to provide information and details about specific programs and services so that information can then be relayed back to respective communities. PFAC members are committed to representing the diverse perspectives of patients and their families. They actively participate in the evaluation of healthcare services and share invaluable insights to improve the overall patient experience. In January of 2023, PFAC focused on gaining new perspectives through a Mothertown Luncheon where the PFAC provided a luncheon chatting session for EBCI members in recovery to help in the goal of rebuilding and strengthening community connections that may have been lost due to substance use/abuse disorders.


PFAC takes a hands-on approach to healthcare. They participate in their own initiatives, ensuring that their recommendations are implemented effectively and that they actively contribute to the betterment of healthcare services. In 2023 members volunteered for things such as serving lunch to CIHA staff for Valentine’s Day, actively engaging with staff to show appreciation and improve staff morale.


One of the remarkable aspects of CIHA’s PFAC committee is its inclusivity. PFAC members are nominated by the community on a biannual basis, ensuring that the committee truly represents the diverse needs and perspectives of Cherokee residents. Moreover, they actively engage in CIHA-sponsored events, promoting a sense of community and collaboration such as the 2023 Week of the Young Child held in April. PFAC members volunteered to help celebrate the importance of early childhood and the families, educators, and advocates who support these important years in a child’s life.


Additional achievements of PFAC members include recognizing the importance of a building’s impact on employee and patient health and how it can contribute to an improvement in concentration and, as a consequence, reduction in mistakes or stress. Because this can be beneficial for patient outcomes and experience, PFAC regularly suggestions for building and grounds improvements such as providing hanging hooks in bathrooms and crosswalks outside entrances.


The Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority’s PFAC members stand as shining examples of community engagement in healthcare. Their dedication to improving healthcare services and ensuring that the community’s voice is heard is a testament to their commitment to the well-being of the Eastern Band if the Cherokee Indians. With their continued efforts, the future of healthcare in Cherokee looks brighter than ever. For more information about CIHA’s Patient and Family Advisory Council, visit

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