Lifestyles

Patient as Partners working group 'buzzing with excitement'

The Patient as Partners – Working Dialogue Group held its two-day conference in Vancouver last week. The BC Ministry of Health recently identified patient-centered care as one of their priorities and the purpose of this conference was to receive input from stakeholder on what patient-centered care should look like in BC. I was lucky enough to be among the 200 or so stakeholders to attend the conference.

Despite having an eternal optimistic attitude, I have to admit I was more than a little skeptical. My internal voice said something to the effect, "Wendy, how likely is it that the Ministry of Health will listen to anything you have to say, let alone do anything about it?"

Although no promises were made, by the time Friday afternoon arrived, energy and optimism oozed from the room. The majority of us were buzzing with excitement (and clearly too much caffeine to fend off exhaustion) and chomping at the bit to get share what we learned.

For two days, I sat in a room with Ministry of Health employees, physicians, care providers from health authorities and from community organizations and most importantly, patients or people with stories to tell about their experiences with the health-care system.

I met a person who openly discussed her mental health challenges and the judgement she faced from health-care providers. I heard the story about a person diagnosed with cancer whose test results were misplaced by her doctor's office resulting in a two-month delay in her diagnosis. I met a family caregiver in her early-30s, caring for her terminally ill spouse while balancing raising two children and a career. I was thanked for my column by an adult child caring for their parents (both with dementia) in residential care facilities.

They vented frustration with the staffing ratios and some of less than desirable conditions of an institutional environment.

Patient-centered care isn't new. Most of us remember the buzz word from the early 2000s. No one can agree on a single definition; however, the dialogue in the room focused on the idea that persons using the health-care system (this includes the recipient of care/services, families and caregivers) are supported and encouraged to participate in their own health care as well as make decisions about their health care.

In 2007, the Ministry of Health worked with the organization ImpactBC to establish the Patient Voices Network, a provincial group of persons using the health-care system, families and caregivers to promote better population health and encourage public participation in shaping the health-care system. Patient Voices Network is now Patient as Partners.

What inspired me the most from the conference was the sheer number of people who want to help make changes to BC health care system.

People like you and I.

Patient as Partners encourages anyone and everyone to have a voice. The best way to do this is to visit their website at https://www.patientsaspartners.ca/network or call them directly toll-free at 1.888.742.1772.

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Solutions. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Thursday.

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