In my remarks to a panel on health care in April I spoke about the importance of patient-centred care. A health care system needs to be founded on a number of operating principles. One of these is the importance of putting patients first.
While this may seem obvious, achieving care which puts patients needs first is often not in place. Indeed, in many respects much of today's health care is organized around the needs of health professionals. Hospitals and clinics are often designed using input from health care professionals, and they will frequently choose options which are most convenient for health professionals, not always thinking of the need to put patients first.
The book "The Putting Patient's First Field Guide - Global Lessons in Designing and Implementing Patient-Centered Care" edited by Susan Frampton and her colleagues should be required reading for people looking at the organization of patient care. One of the points that is made is this (pages 110-111) "In most health care delivery systems around the world, activating patients and encouraging shared decision making represents a paradigm shift. In a person-centered health care setting, medical degrees and extensive training are no longer the exclusive measure of expertise.... partnership, joint goal setting, shared decision making and reciprocal communication between patients and caregivers [are central]. ...Activating patients to make their health care priorities and preferences known is not only empowering for patients but for clinicians as well, better enabling them to incorporate patient preferences into treatment recommendations."
To continue (page 109) "Patient activation not only leads to more meaningful interactions and richer dialogues between patients and caregivers at the point of care. Is is also strongly related to a broad range of health related outcomes. ... more highly activated patients were more likely to report higher physical and mental functional status scores, as well as higher satisfaction."
During the summer, I received many emails from people who have called on me and others to make sure we are putting patients first. These have been written in part over concern that the Pallister government's approach is putting costs first and cutbacks in spending first. On November 19th, I am hosting a Forum which will look at the impact of the Pallister government's cuts, and which will look at charting a course for the future. One of the important considerations will be ensuring that future decisions will put patients first. The Forum is being held at the St Andrews River Heights United Church on Sunday November 19th from 2 to 4 pm. Come and share you concerns and your ideas for how we build a system which will put patients first.