International Conference on Practice Facilitation: Even Practice Facilitators and Practice Facilitation Program Leads Need Support!

Shannon Sweeney, PhD, ESCALATES Qualitative Team Manager

 

The inaugural International Conference on Practice Facilitation was a two-day event held in November 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky, with a focus on sharing emerging knowledge and experiences and disseminating best practices for practice facilitation. Zsolt Nagykaldi and Melinda Davis, co-chairs for the conference, had both been practice facilitators before becoming faculty members in primary care departments and deeply understood the need for this event; I did not know that there was no dedicated conference or organization for practice facilitation at the national or international level before this conference! The conference had over 120 participants, primarily consisting of those training to be practice facilitators, current practice facilitators, and facilitation program leads and researchers. It was a wonderful opportunity to step back and look at this growing field and learn how it is and can continue to contribute to improving primary care and other settings where health care services are delivered. Zsolt noted that “you introduce a facilitator, and [once] primary care practices taste facilitation [they] don’t want to let it go” and that message resonated throughout the event.

 

Melinda noted that the meeting was intentionally designed to provide a space for people working in the field to “understand what the spectrum of practice facilitation look[s] like across different programs” and how the work has evolved over time. The first day had lots of interactive sessions where participants were encouraged to share their work, discuss similarities and differences amongst each other, and to build relationship-connections that would endure after the conference. On the second day, there were several breakout sessions that focused on current research in the field, skill-building activities, and understanding how to build a learning community of practice facilitators nationally. An article highlighting key details and the success of the first International Conference on Practice Facilitation is available in the May/June 2018 issue of Annals of Family Medicine.

 

As a relatively new primary care researcher, I only recently learned about practice facilitation and have been so impressed by all the facilitators I’ve been able to speak with and observe while working on the ESCALATES project. Although each facilitation organization and each facilitator has a unique skillset and approach to the work (since it is so customized to each practice and their project(s)), I was surprised to learn about the lack of a centralized repository of resources for this field1 and for broad scope competencies, two topics that came up in many discussions throughout the conference. Some facilitators or program leads felt isolated in their work and the conference did a great job of bringing people together, creating space for relationship building, and institutionalizing and organizing some of the existing information.

 

Additionally, there were conversations about both the need for continued professional development and assistance in developing practice facilitation programs and training facilitators to continue to grow the field to meet the needs of practices.

There was a lot of interest about how to structure a program with the proper dose to be effective, how to tailor programs to meet the needs of the practice and the project, and how to monitor quality to ensure that practices are getting what they need while avoiding facilitator isolation.

ESCALATES is in a unique position to contribute to practice facilitation programs, given that we are able to look across seven varied programs, each with one or more facilitation organizations, and see the different kinds of training and support programs offered. The talk I gave on “Studying Practice Facilitation on a Large Scale: Findings from the EvidenceNOW Initiative” focused on variations across facilitation programs and it was well received. There was a lot of interest about how to structure a program with the proper dose to be effective, how to tailor programs to meet the needs of the practice and the project, and how to monitor quality to ensure that practices are getting what they need while avoiding facilitator isolation. Attendees also talked about the funding of practice facilitation programs, and the challenges and opportunities associated with facilitation programs that were linked to academic, public health, or health systems.

 

Although ESCALATES does not yet have answers to all of these questions, we are working to further contribute to this body of knowledge. The conference provided an excellent space for dialogue and will continue to provide this opportunity, particularly in 2018 at the second annual conference in Tampa, December 10th– 11th with the theme of “Building Capacity for Practice Facilitation.” The 2018 International Conference on Practice Facilitation call for abstracts is open until July 20thand the conference steering committee is still looking for submissions that can continue to advance the field. I look forward to our team both learning and sharing more about the wonderful facilitation work going on across the United States, Canada, Australia and in other countries!

 

One of the main objectives of the International Conference on Practice Facilitation is to create an international learning community for practice facilitators where new knowledge, skills and resources can be shared on a continuing basis. With much discussion about the lack of a centralized repository at the conference, the conference chairs have since initiated this sharing process by creating a listserv, and are also working on creating a searchable knowledge and resource repository for the field.

 

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  1. One of the main objectives of the International Conference on Practice Facilitation is to create an international learning community for practice facilitators where new knowledge, skills and resources can be shared on a continuing basis. With much discussion about the lack of a centralized repository at the conference, the conference chairs have since initiated this sharing process by creating a listserv, and are also working on creating a searchable knowledge and resource repository for the field.