Over the last 4 months IMAGINE held six regional meetings across the province. We would like to sincerely thank everyone who joined us and shared their thoughts in Wainwright, Stettler, Peace River, Pincher Creek, Okotoks and Brocket. Participants from these communities shared their thoughts about their health care experiences and a number of key themes emerged:
- Continuity: Participants at the meetings described many positive health care experiences where patients were treated in a timely manner, with kindness and respect and provided with options and the information they needed to understand their options and feel confident in their care. But, we also heard about experiences where access to the system was slow and complicated and where lack of communication between providers, such as rural practitioners and urban-based specialists and/or hospitals, impacted care.
- Navigation and efficiency: Participants said they want to get into and to navigate the system easily (coordinating homecare and simply getting a monthly hospital parking pass were cited as examples). To enable and achieve this, communication and collaboration among healthcare providers, patients and their families is critical. Suggested potential efficiency and care improvements included: more homecare planning; nurse practitioners as part of the care team; patient navigators; faster turn around times of EMS staff at hospitals; and, access to our own healthcare information.
- Caring for our seniors: Many expressed concerns about seniors’ care and the need to recognize and confirm the value of caring for and about seniors. Participants want to ensure seniors in care are respected and listened to and that their pride and dignity is maintained.
- Citizens/families voices matter: The need to respect the patient voice came through loud and clear in the meetings. Participants shared examples where patients’ knowledge, pain, insight, culture and situation were not heard or acknowledged. As well, they confirmed that regular communication with family and/or informal caregivers is important as they have valuable information and insight to contribute.
- Staff pressure: Participants in rural communities expressed frustration around accessing family physicians in a timely manner. But, they understood that their physicians were overstretched with challenging shift work supporting the local hospital or clinic. Participants felt front-line workers such as nurses were also overstretched and too busy and suggested that a more efficient way to provide services and reduce pressure would include employing nurses to their full scope of practice and maximizing the entire health care team. Participants also felt that positive stories about good health care experiences and providers should be shared and celebrated.
- Personal responsibility: Participants acknowledged that taking personal responsibility for their own health is important and often hinges on asking questions. But, as one participant said, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” So, asking the right question means having the right information. To successfully take personal responsibility or be an advocate, patients need to be well informed, have answers to their questions, understand next steps and know where to access information and support.
Besides asking participants about their health care experiences, we also asked participants what elements they would want to see in a patient-centred care system.
- Participants said they want timely, consistent good care for all in a system that provides simplified access to care and easy access to and communication with specialists inside and outside the community.
- Participants want to be a partner in the journey. That means they want to be educated as a patient, to have open, respectful, two-way communication with all of their providers as well as access to their information.
- Participants thought patient centred care included providers that knew their name, listened to them and acknowledged that they have important and valuable information to share.
- Many felt that patient centred care should involve collaboration with a range of providers from naturopaths to dentists.
We look forward to connecting with more citizens across the province to continue these critical conversations. The discussions at these meetings enable us to deepen our understanding of what is most important to Albertans. If you are interested in an upcoming meeting or would like to host one in your community, please contact us.