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Friday, April 12, 2013

Patient engagement in health quality improvement

Dr. Dennis Kendel, Councillor, Health Council of Canada

While most Canadian citizens are pleased with health services in this country, information from around the world tells us there is considerable room for improvement in these services.

As part of these improvement efforts, Canada’s provincial and territorial Premiers have committed to an exciting new initiative to promote and share innovative approaches to delivering safer and better health care. Premier Brad Wall of Saskatchewan is a leader in this pan-Canadian process.

In Saskatchewan, the Ministry of Health, all Regional Health Authorities, and the Health Quality Council are collaborating in an unprecedented improvement effort to ensure that future health services in this province are optimally safe, appropriate, and high quality. As part of this effort, these agencies are engaging many health care workers across the province in improvement work using LEAN methodologies.

Another key improvement initiative under way in Saskatchewan is an effort to ensure that all citizens have access to primary care services that are patient centred, community designed and team delivered. This means, if a patient has a chronic or complex health condition, they would receive much more integrated and coordinated care from a team of health care professionals (nurses, pharmacists, social workers, family physicians, etc.). This team would collaborate in making care safer and better for the patient. Their combined expertise applied in a team approach could reduce medication errors and ensure more efficient scheduling of diagnostic tests.

However the most compelling aspect of the health quality improvement work in Saskatchewan is the effort to engage many patients and citizens in the process. Many quality improvement projects include patient and family participants who are making contributions to the success of this work.

On April 10 and 11, the Health Quality Council is convening a Quality Summit symposium in Regina that will bring together hundreds of participants to share knowledge about health care quality improvement from across Saskatchewan, Canada, and around the world. What is most exciting about the plans for this Quality Summit is that the Government of Saskatchewan will fund all participation costs for up to 80 patients and family members. This is another step forward for Saskatchewan, where the engagement of patients and families in health care quality improvement has moved beyond tokenism to become foundational.

However, patient and family engagement in health care quality improvement should not just occur at conferences and workshops. It needs to occur every day in every setting in which health care services are delivered. Next time a patient visits their family doctor, they should ask him/her about quality improvement efforts in primary care and whether he/she is engaged in the process.

As well, here’s how every citizen can play a role in improving health care services and their own personal health.
  • When the health care services you receive do not meet your needs or expectations, speak up and let the workers providing your care know how you feel. 
  • Offer constructive suggestions on how health care professionals could make your future health care experiences better. 
  • Expect health care providers to listen to you and act in response to your suggestions. 
Your life and your health are at stake. Become actively engaged in a process that improves both your healthcare experiences and your future health status. Citizens can and should take an active role in improving the quality of the health care system as well as their own health care.

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