Patient participation essential

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“Patient participants are the reality check on the improvement team,” said Alan Chapple with Quality Improvement.

Jessica Bonish patient advisor
Jessica Bonish, a patient advisor, reviews a value stream map.

“They’re the ones who ask, ‘Why do you do this?’ which leads us to reflect on why we do things the way we do and whether we can make improvements. They’re the ones who keep saying, ‘What about the patient?’ I find their presence really valuable.”

Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region (RQHR) has sought patient input in a number of ways over the past several years. Seeing the health care system through the eyes of the patient is fundamental to creating a patient and family centred health care system. Patient representation is required on all rapid process improvement workshop (RPIW) teams. An RPIW consists of a five-day event where small tests of change are trialed, audited and fine-tuned over a 180-day period.

Dozens of current and former patients and their families have taken part in RQHR improvement events.

Past patient participants have appreciated being invited to participate. They come away from the experience with a better understanding of the complexity of the health care system, an appreciation for the professionalism of our health care providers and the recognition that they need to take ownership of their health. In some instances, it helps restore their faith in a system that has let them down.

“It's very gratifying for a patient to be heard, and valued,” said Cindy Dumba, who has participated in several projects including RPIWs.

The patients’ influence on the work of the RPIW is undeniable.

Nancy Buchan, director of Mental Health's Quality and Strategy Business Unit, said patient feedback resulted in the removal of the glass window at the reception area of the RQHR’s Mental Health Clinic. Patients found the window unwelcoming and believed it perpetuated the negative stereotype that mental health patients are dangerous. As there have been no critical incidents in the reception area in the past several years, the decision was made to remove the glass.

“This is a huge culture change for the Mental Health Centre and it’s truly client centred,” said Buchan.

Amy Strudwick, lead infrastructure specialist with Quality Improvement, said that, as a result of the input of patient participant Doug Schiffner, Pasqua Hospital’s Orthopedics Unit now X-rays post-operative patients in bed, rather than moving them to X-ray machines via stretcher for these tests.

“The thing to remember, the day after surgery you’re in an extreme amount of pain and have a lot of anxiety about being moved around – or I did,” said Schiffner.

Added Strudwick, “these changes are a big step towards true patient-centred care.”

Yin Yin Tan, lead specialist with Surgery's Quality and Strategy Business Unit, said patient participants help re-focus the team when members’ ideas on improvement work differ. “Asking the patient what would work best from their perspective often settles the argument.”

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