Consumer Engagement

It is vital to have the patient or consumer voice at the table when health care services are being planned, reviewed and delivered. We agree with the statement that “expertise lies at both ends of the stethoscope” and consumers have the capacity to influence ongoing positive change in the health system…but it isn’t an easy task.

We need to learn to be an effective “critical friend” – someone who provides important feedback on being a health consumer, but also someone who gives constructive feedback and builds a positive conversation. Someone who can tell their own story effectively, but also move beyond their story to speak up for the people who may not be at the table.

You can get involved in a number of ways:

What is a Consumer Representative?

A Consumer Representative participates as a member of a health related board, committee, advisory group or council by providing a consumer ‘voice’. He/she contributes an informed consumer perspective on behalf of consumers and participates in decision making processes. Consumer Representatives do not speak on behalf of the HCC unless requested to do so by the HCC. A Consumer Representative provides a voice, not for themselves, but on behalf of others with a similar condition/experience.

Why participate?

Health services must be accountable to the communities they serve. Representing the real needs of consumers is important and constructive, because it enables real, positive changes to be made and the rights of consumers to be defended and upheld.

As a Consumer Representative, what should I expect from a committee?

You should expect to

  • be treated as an equal member of the committee
  • be heard, listened to respectfully and understood by other members.
  • be able to ask for clarification and more information, especially if jargon is being used.
  • receive all relevant and necessary information and an agenda for the meeting, with enough time to read and understand them, and to enable consultation with consumers and consumer groups before the meeting.
  • be entitled to disagree with the rest of the committee and to have this dissent recorded
  • be able to talk to others about information from the committee, its deliberations and processes, within the constraints of confidentiality.

As the “host” of the committee, the Chair has a responsibility and a duty to facilitate the involvement of the consumer representative/s.

The Health Consumers’ Council is often asked to nominate consumer representatives to national and state committees. Issues worked on in committees cover the whole spectrum of issues in the health system. The commitment of time required of representatives varies; but typically it involves attendance at a meeting once a month, and production of a report to the HCC. The Health Consumers’ Council then disseminates the report’s information through our website and our networks.

What are my responsibilities as a Consumer Representative?

Consumer Representatives are advised not to disclose confidential information that may be discussed during committee meetings, but information that can be shared with other consumers.

Consumer Representatives have a responsibility to share the information they gain with other health consumers.The ability to provide non-confidential information from committees helps to inform consumer groups and to ensure the health system is patient-orientated.

How do I become a Health Consumers’ Council (HCC) Consumer Representative?

To become a Consumer Representative you need to:

  • Be a current member of the HCC
  • Provide the HCC with a profile or resume that outlines your experience as a health consumer (see online template)
  • Apply for Consumer Representative positions that are right for you, e.g., health related committees and boards, Community Advisory Councils
  • Understand that the HCC will require updates/reports to inform others of your committee’s successes
What are my obligations as a HCC Consumer Representative?

Once placed you are required to:

  • Submit regular reports to the HCC outlining issues discussed, actions taken and resolutions. (You will be provided with a template.)
  • Attend and participate in your board or committee meetings regularly
  • Participate effectively and constructively
  • Undertake duties required by the committee/board
  • Abide by the HCC’s Code of Conduct
  • Stay informed of community concerns/developments in the area of health you represent
What support does the Health Consumers’ Council provide to HCC Consumer Representatives?

You will be able to access support by:

  • Attending the Consumer Representative Network Gatherings
  • Linking and networking with experienced consumer representatives
  • Raising concerns with the HCC
  • Attending our workshops Click on the link to find out when our Health Consumer Representation Workshops are being held
Do I get paid?

It depends. HCC strongly advocates for Consumers to be paid, and we have a Consumer Representative Policy which suggests tiered payments depending on the involvement. This policy is currently referenced by  the Department of Health