IMAGINE responds to AHS’ Patient First Strategy

Alberta Health Services (AHS) has released a document titled the Patient First Strategy, which identifies priority actions needed to further embed the principles of patient- and family-centred care in a consistent and standardized way throughout the organization.

For more information on the strategy paper click here.Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 7.09.49 PM

The Strategy speaks to a changed culture that is based on caring, compassion, collaboration and mutual respect; a goal that we share. The good intention behind the development of this strategy is much appreciated. The commitment of AHS to patient-/family-centred care is evident and goes beyond words to propose concrete actions such as, access to health information and deliberate human resources policies.

The level of commitment is also reflected in the fact that patients were included in the development of the document and the intention is stated for their continued involvement. We see the Strategy as a living document that will continue to evolve as the health system evolves and patient/family relationships with the system change. We welcome the opportunity to work with AHS to continue to shape this Strategy.

Our Perspective

To be competent partners, patients/families need to understand how the health system works and we believe this is a key role here for AHS to play along with other partners in the system. As written, the strategy is very focused on AHS and on medical care within that system rather then health care more generally speaking. For example, there is a reference to the “medical experience”.  When people think of their “medical experience”, however, they probably include health professionals working in a variety of settings (e.g., family physicians, nurse practitioners, psychologists, pharmacists, physiotherapists).  People using the healthcare system will expect ‘Patient First’ principles to apply across all these settings. A strong alliance of all partners to build consensus around a patient first strategy would be helpful.

There seems to be a presumption on the part of the system about what the patient/family role should be. To be truly patient/family centred, the health care system needs to meet patients and families where they are at, which will vary from situation to situation and from day to day. It is imperative that people have a choice in the role they play. Issues of language, culture, generational capacity, being engaged when under stress, and episodic versus long term illness will all have an impact on the role that patients/families can and wish to play. This should be a negotiated space. Otherwise, this becomes an expert model of engagement.

As the Patients First strategy is more fully developed, we recommend that AHS consider creating, from a patient perspective, clear pathways and processes so that patient and families know how to fully realize the value and opportunities created with this document. These mechanisms also provide a way to meaningfully measure uptake and engagement for both patients and care providers.

Finally, developing a companion document, written for patients, about what this change means to them as they interact with the healthcare system would be helpful. In the future, access to clinical information systems for patients could be a powerful mechanism for patients and families to be more involved in their care plans and options, should they so desire. Once again, IMAGINE welcomes the opportunity to work with AHS in shaping this Strategy.