The inclusion of patient voices is instrumental to progress in health care. Developed in 2010 by the Ministry of Health in concert with community partners and patients, the Patient Voices Network supports the central role of patients as partners in their own care. The network gives patients, families and their caregivers a way to be involved in the process of positive health system change through online and in-person engagement.
The Patient Voices Network is based on the belief that patients affected by health care decisions should be involved in the process of reaching those decisions. Led by a partner organization, these discussions typically involve health care interest groups. From 2010 to 2015, about half of these engagements were led by B.C.’s regional health authorities.
Public engagement benefits both patients and health care providers:
- Providers are often focused on their own part of the health care system, while the patient often has a broader experience of the entire system;
- By involving patients from the beginning, their concerns can be addressed earlier and more efficiently, resulting in a better use of both time and resources; and
- When patients have knowledge and the confidence that their voices are being heard, they are better able to manage their own care and make contributions to their community.
As a Network Friend, patients can participate in an online, virtual network to receive updates and complete surveys that help inform health care improvement.
Following orientation sessions with the Patient Voices Network, patients become volunteers and are eligible to participate in further opportunities matched to their availability, interests and experiences. Volunteers can participate in working groups, advisory committees, focus groups and multiple other processes working to make the patient’s voice part of the guiding change in British Columbia.
Getting involved in the Patient Voices Network
The Patient Voices Network continues to engage members and health care interest groups on an ongoing basis. To get involved as a friend or volunteer, please visit their website.
The Patient Voices Network was developed and successfully administered by ImpactBC through annual funding and direction provided by the Ministry of Health until October 31, 2015. Now, the network resides with the Patient Safety and Quality Council, a Ministry of Health funded and arms’ length organization that works with the ministry.
Over the past five years, the level of engagement and the ability of patients to be directly involved in the decision making process of the health care sector has increased:
- In 2013-14, ImpactBC staff facilitated 152 placement opportunities for 450 volunteers;
- As of October 15, 2015, there were 1881 patient partners, 1165 friends and 716 volunteers;
- Between September 2014 to March 2015, 96 placement opportunities were facilitated for 333 volunteers; and
- Over the five years, patients have participated in a total of 709 unique placement opportunities for health care improvement; this number excludes multiple counting of ongoing or recurring requests. Patients have provided feedback and have been involved members of groups that worked on projects that have included: re-designing services, considering design aspects of physical locations, developing educational materials, etc.
Input leads to action:
Numerous positive health care improvements have resulted from the involvement of patients and families in health care decision making, including:
- Patients and families who had recently experienced surgical services at Island Health were involved in developing tools for Island Health’s Surgical Patient Education website, covering topics such as how to improve health before surgery and how to prepare to meet your surgeon.
- In 2015, Northern Health asked Aboriginal volunteers to provide feedback and input on pamphlets for patients and families regarding health care services. Aboriginal patients and elders in the community were engaged in the development of the document to ensure that the resources met their needs.
- In 2014, patients and family partners participated in Interior Health’s Eating Disorder Regional Planning Day. This activity gathered meaningful information from participants to be considered in the development of the Interior Health Eating Disorder Strategy.
- Providence Health Care included patient partners in hiring committees in many hiring processes. For example, two patient partners were invited to assist in the hiring of respiratory therapists for St. Paul’s and Mount St. Joseph’s hospitals.
- The Ridge Meadows Division of Family Practice extended an invitation for two patient volunteers to work with general practitioners and radiologists in developing project-based solutions for improving communication and imaging results. The working group outcomes were also successful, with 77% of the physicians involved indicating that there were improvements in the time it takes to get imaging results back, and booking clerks noting improvements in the completeness of referrals, which reduced booking delays.