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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Guest blogger Gail Starr on Patient Engagement

Gail Starr of Richmond, BC, is an advocate for injured workers. He is a member of the Patient Voices Network, a province-wide initiative led by ImpactBC in collaboration with Patients as Partners, Ministry of Health in British Columbia.

I’ve always thought of myself as an “engaged” patient, although I may not have used the term. My family doctor and I have been collaborating on my health care since I started visiting her in 1994.  I can even recall sending her a thank you note for helping me look after my health.

Decision-making and ongoing cooperation are areas where my doctor and I would score very highly. We listen to each other, weigh options and likely results, and agree on most things. She has supported me quietly but firmly in making some lifestyle changes I agreed I needed to make. When our opinions differ, there is mutual respect.

But reading this report has helped me raise the bar on myself. I saw some measures of engagement where my doctor and I don’t necessarily score at the top of the scale. I’m preparing this week for an annual check-up, and I now have new ideas for getting more out of that.

Upon reflection, I realize that I almost always have enough of her time. She is especially generous with it when it comes to “big” issues. It occurred to me, however, that I do not know how to get in touch with her – or a substitute for her – if I need medical advice outside office hours. I’ve never tried phoning for anything other than an appointment, and they are always available reasonably soon. But “after hours” assistance – or telephone advice during office hours?  I don’t know what I would do.  I should find out.

I also realized that I have been unduly passive in the face of long delays in seeing some specialists. It is hard to know who can be approached to find a solution, but I have resolved to pursue the matter when consultation is delayed unreasonably.

But all in all, I’m proud to say that this report makes my relationship with my doctor look good. . . with healthy room for improvement.
Read the full report, “How Engaged are Canadians in their Primary Care?” at

Key Words: Primary Health Care, Patient Engagement

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