Working together for better patient care

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Working together for better patient care

Alison Hamilton has a passion for health care.

Alison Hamilton (left) with Dr. Skinner, who she said changed her healthcare experience for the better.

She was born with cystic fibrosis. As a result, Alison has extensive experience being a client in the healthcare system, having been diagnosed at just 13 months of age.

With a lifetime of appointments with health care providers in the region, as well as in the Saskatoon Health Region, Alison has had her share of challenges with the healthcare system. “One day Saskatoon needed my blood work. Regina did the blood work, but they couldn’t send the results because they couldn’t fax to that number. They weren’t authorized.” Her biggest frustration has been seeing multiple experts in their respective fields who aren't necessarily experts in communicating and sharing their approach to treatment with each other.   

For Alison, everything changed when respirologist Julian Tam with the Saskatoon Adult Cystic Fibrosis Clinic at Royal University Hospital referred her to Dr. Skinner with the Infectious Disease Department at Regina General Hospital. At first, due to her extensive experience as a patient, Alison was hesitant that they wouldn’t communicate and collaborate with each other. But even before she went to Dr. Skinner’s office Dr. Tam had briefed him on her. “It was evident right away. They call each other, compare notes, share treatment plans. They are on the same page. I have never seen that level of care.”

Alison recollects, “The first time Dr. Tam called me it was 8 o’clock at night, and I thought -oh my god,what is going on… this can’t be good, but he had called with my blood work results. Now when I see his number I am happy to hear from him and chat.”

After she has an appointment with Dr. Skinner, Dr. Tam will call him a couple days after to confirm they are on the same page. Their approach to Alison’s care makes all the difference to her, “They don’t have to do that, but they do.”

For Alison, the upfront collaboration gave her the confidence all patients should have in their doctors, that they are receiving the best possible care. “Now I know things aren’t going to fall through the cracks. They are doing it because they are focused on the patient. They look at me as a person; they don’t see me as a set of lungs.”

Alison feels her doctors offer a great example of what is possible when we collaborate, particularly with the soon to be singular provincial health region in Saskatchewan. "Some people are concerned about the transformation but as a patient, I can hardly wait for that day." Alison reflects, "When that announcement was made I called my Mom right away. I was so happy. It was all the things I've been saying for 10 years."

Like many patients, Alison has empathy for the change. "It will be challenging but the end goal makes a lot of sense, especially from a patient perspective."

The potential for collaboration and a better patient experience is at the heart of the transformational change in Saskatchewan health care.  With providers like Dr. Tam and Dr. Skinner collaborating to deliver high quality, safe care to patients like Alison, she hopes the pride and confidence she feels about her doctors in different health regions will be something we can all share in when we unite under one single health authority.

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