Toward a Person-Centred Health System

Alberta’s healthcare system belongs to all of us yet we as health citizens have little ability to influence how the system provides service to Albertans.

For many who manage their own and their families’ healthcare journeys, it can be a frustrating experience to achieve the quality of care they expect and need. The system often isn’t focused on the experiences and outcomes that matter to citizens.

In February 2020, Imagine Citizens Network, working with the Health Quality Council of Alberta and the Alberta SPOR Patient Engagement Program, conducted a two-day workshop to determine what mattered most to Albertans in their health system. The comments are below but essentially people say, “I deserve to be at the centre of my care.”

“Being seen as a whole person.”

“Having knowledge.”

“Providers who can be trusted and are compassionate and accessible.”

“Providers who consider the patient’s mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions.”

“Evidence-based care.”

“Education of the public, supports in the community.”

“The system is designed for providers, not patients.”

“Increased burdens for patients.”

“Siloed services.”

“Poor communication.”

“Difficult to navigate.”

“Need more involvement of patients and their families in decisions, as opposed to ‘we know best’ approach.”

“Lack of time and attention. Focus only on the short-term.”

“Want prevention and wellness.”

“Quality of life of each individual taken into account.”

“Cumulative information.”

“Better transitions.”

We at Imagine Citizens Network envision a healthcare culture where people are at the centre of their care. 

Many sources call for innovation within the healthcare system and recognize that the main catalysts for change will come from outside of the system. While the lived experience of people who use healthcare services is not yet highly valued, it is this experiential knowledge that is most likely to drive needed innovation.

As an independent citizen-led organization, Imagine Citizens Network is well positioned to be the trusted voice that accelerates healthcare system reform by involving all of us as health citizens and amplifying our voices.

What is Person-Centred Care?

Person-centred care is a culture shift for our healthcare environment. Imagine Citizens Network envisions this future culture through the following principles:

  • Healthcare is a deeply human endeavour; it should be about people caring for and about people, treating all people with compassion and dignity in ways that honour cultural differences and support equity and inclusion.
  • The exact nature of the patient-provider partnership will look different for different people and will evolve over time. It must be about meeting ‘people who are sometimes patients’ where they are and jointly determining how to work together.
  • Relationships between patients and healthcare providers should be characterized by mutual trust and respect and understanding. This will be achieved through cultural humility, by acknowledging and welcoming the strengths people bring to the partnership, by sharing the power in the relationship, and using language for understanding (moving away from health care jargon and ‘professional speak’).
  • Healthcare organization structures and processes need to be purposefully developed to actively support these essential partnerships, including engaging “people who are sometimes patients’ to become actively involved in their own care in ways that work for them.
  • People know what matters most in the context of their lives and need to be supported to establish their own strategies for health and wellbeing, of which healthcare may on occasion be a component.

Person-centred care fosters respectful and compassionate care that is responsive to the needs, values, beliefs and preferences of patients and their family members. It supports mutually beneficial partnerships between patients, families and healthcare providers.

Person-centred care shifts providers from an approach that results in doing something to or for the patient – where the healthcare provider’s perspective may be dominant – to a true partnership in which roles are jointly determined.

Adapted from Accreditation Canada