Put patients first, says Health Council

The Health Council of Canada shares insights on patient engagement from patients and Canada's leaders in health care

VANCOUVER, February 23, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - Today, the Health Council of Canada released Turning what we know into action: A commentary on the National Symposium on Patient Engagement, calling for the inclusion of the patient voice when designing, planning and delivering health care services in Canada. The goal of the symposium is to raise awareness of the potential of patient engagement as a means of improving the health care system.

"Patients with informed voices have a role to play in health system planning and ultimately on health care delivery," says John G. Abbott, CEO of the Health Council of Canada. "However, patients must feel empowered and must be properly oriented to effectively assume that role."

In October 2011, the Health Council of Canada held a national symposium on patient engagement. Patients, representatives from patient organizations, provincial and federal government representatives, researchers, health system administrators and health care providers shared their perspectives on patient-centred care.

A strong message from participants coming out of the symposium is the need to have patient engagement as a performance goal.

"We know governments make the most progress on their goals when specific objectives and concrete targets are set up front," says Mr. Abbott.

The patient experience should be measured at all levels of the health care system. The measurements should be used to set targets for higher quality care that is in keeping with patient experiences and expectations.

An equally strong message echoed by participants is the need to shift from a provider-focused to patient-centred care. To allow patients to take a more active role in their health care, governments and health care providers must shift the way health care is delivered to focus on patient-centred care. Patient-centred care concentrates on relationships that are a two-way exchange of information: patients are empowered, providers are willing to listen to them, and decisions are made as a team.

"Businesses listen to their customers, in the business of health care, the customers are the patients, and must be heard," says Mr. Abbott.

A recent report released by the Health Council of Canada, How Engaged are Canadians in their Primary Care: Results from the 2010 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey, revealed that only 48% of Canadians feel involved in and are actively participating in their own health care. This means less than half of Canadians are taking a more active role in maintaining their health, oftentimes leading to increased satisfaction with their care. Engaged patients better understand and know more about their care, which leads to better use of health care services and resources. The symposium reinforced these findings.

About the Health Council of Canada

Created by the 2003 First Ministers' Accord on Health Care Renewal, the Health Council of Canada is an independent national agency that reports on the progress of health care renewal. The Council provides a system-wide perspective on health care reform in Canada, and disseminates information on leading practices and innovation across the country. The Councillors are appointed by the participating provincial and territorial governments and the Government of Canada.

Video: What we heard from over 160 participants at our National Symposium on Patient Engagement