Leadership Transition Planned for MHQP’s Consumer Health Council
MHQP is pleased to announce that Lucilia Prates has been selected to be the new Chair of MHQP’s Consumer Health Council (CHC). Ms. Prates will be following in the footsteps of Rosalind Joffe, who has been leading the Council since its inception in 2011. Ms. Joffe will remain active on the CHC, but will no longer serve as its Chair.
The MHQP Board paused for a few moments at its quarterly meeting on October 23 to thank Ms. Joffe with a plaque and celebrate her many contributions and accomplishments as its founding chairperson.
“Rosalind has been an incredible partner and the driving force behind the success and momentum of the Consumer Health Council,” said Barbra Rabson, MHQP’s President and CEO. “The Council has become an influential and integral part of MHQP’s patient engagement strategy and an important voice in our governance, thanks in large part to Rosalind’s commitment, energy and vision. We are in her debt.”
The CHC was created in recognition of the important role patients, families and the public have in developing a healthcare system in Massachusetts that yields higher quality results and greater affordability. It is comprised of patients, family caregivers and other members of the public who have been active in, and have advocated for, patient-centered care.
Both Ms. Joffe and Ms. Prates come to their work on the Council with an extensive background in patient advocacy – and a personal history of challenging interactions with the healthcare system.
“I came to this because I have been a witness to healthcare with my own story and my own personal experience with chronic illness since 1978,” said Ms. Joffe.
Her own challenges with chronic illness led her to make a “switchback career turn” about 15 years ago and found her business, ciCoach, in which she supports and helps people adapt to the challenges of living and working with a chronic illness.
“Through it all, I’ve observed that every piece of our healthcare system is dysfunctional because of the way the system has evolved,” Ms. Joffe said. “Most people in all areas of healthcare feel dissatisfied and frustrated. I certainly felt that. And I felt I had a particular thing to offer, a perspective as a person who needed the healthcare system, as a consumer, a frequent flyer.”
“So, when I was contacted by MHQP in 2010 and they asked me to be on this new Council, I said I would do it because it was a chance for me to speak up and represent the patient voice,” she said.
What impressed Ms. Joffe most about this opportunity was the chance to be part of a collaboration between multiple healthcare stakeholder groups.
“I was impressed from the outset that MHQP was able to bring providers, health plans and patients together on a level playing field to think creatively about new ideas and issues that they all care about. I felt this was a unique opportunity that exists nowhere else that I’m aware of,” she said.
Ms. Joffe is uncomfortable about using the term “legacy” in reflecting on her seven years as the Chair of the CHC.
“I don’t think of it as legacy,” she said, “but I think it’s something that has happened over my term here that I wanted to make happen. Mostly what I did was held it together when there was no focus, kept us moving forward, and generated momentum and new ideas.”
And ultimately for Rosalind, it’s about the patient voice.
“I think one thing I did was to create a place for this voice within an already existing organization, MHQP. And I’d like to think that that place is now institutionalized. That feels good. I do feel really good about where things are and I’m happy to turn it over as a smooth-running body,” she said.
“It’s been a sheer joy working with the great people at MHQP. That’s why I’ve stayed on – because I love working with them and because it feeds me spiritually. I get as much out of it as I give.”
Ms. Prates has a long and distinguished history as an advocate for vulnerable populations and patients. The first decade of her career was in healthcare settings and serving limited English proficient and other vulnerable populations. She then turned to work with immigrants and refugees, serving as Deputy Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition where she defended immigrant rights and promoted civic engagement. She has served on many boards, including Partnership for Healthcare Excellence, Inc. and Health Care For All (HCFA), and was a founding member of HCFA’s Consumer Health Quality Council and its President for three years. She also sits on the Massachusetts Department of Public Heath Public Health Council.
Since 2002, Lucilia has served as Statewide Director for the Massachusetts Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) Program, helping people across the state become engaged healthcare consumers by asking questions, keeping a record of healthcare encounters, reviewing bills and benefit statements, and learning how to navigate the ever-changing healthcare delivery system.
Her own journey to healthcare activist was also colored by a negative personal experience with the healthcare system.
“In 2005, my dad went in for elective surgery, contracted MRSA and was a victim of an adverse event,” she reflected. “He went through a six-month horrible and tragic encounter with the healthcare system and lost his life at the end of the fight.”
(See a video that Lucilia’s family produced about her father’s experience – an initiative of HFCA’s Consumer Health Council and in collaboration with BU School of Public Health.)
Her father’s ordeal further cemented her dedication to promoting consumer involvement and transparency in the healthcare system.
“When that happened I thought, ‘I’m in this line of work, I know how to navigate the system, and this still happens to my family,’” she said. “And nobody is immune to it. That’s the message I carry to people: It can happen to any one of us.”
Lucilia’s commitment to the MHQP Consumer Health Council is a logical extension of her passionate desire to help people who are not being heard.
“I come from an immigrant community,” she said. “I have seen the delivery of care to immigrants who don’t speak English, who are a different color. I’ve seen that first-hand when I worked in the healthcare setting and with my dad who had limited English proficiency. They’re relegated to being somebody who is ‘less than.’”
This perspective and life experience will certainly influence her priorities as Chair of the CHC.
“There are vulnerable populations out there that I think we could be tapping into – and getting much more input from the grassroots,” she said. “I don’t think we’ve done enough of that. I think we have people on the Council who understand the system and know how to navigate it. We need to think more about those who can’t.”
And, as with Rosalind, it’s ultimately about the patient voice.
“I think patients are finally beginning to understand that they have a voice that needs to be heard. I’m seeing a slow but steady shift where people are becoming more engaged, picking up their phone, asking questions, reporting discrepancies in their bills and, more importantly, in the delivery of care. Consumers are not taking it lying down,” she said.
“And that’s my vision and aspiration for the CHC,” she continued. I’d like to see it be recognized as a change agent in the Commonwealth’s healthcare delivery system, with grassroots consumer input. I’m excited to be part of this organization that values feedback from patients.”
“We are thrilled to have Lucilia as the new Chair of our Consumer Health Council,” said Barbra Rabson. “We look forward to partnering with her and helping her achieve her exciting and important vision for MHQP’s Consumer Health Council.”