The Call for Human Experience in Canadian Healthcare
In light of recent global healthcare conversations, it is time to reflect on where Canadian healthcare stands and needs to go. As our neighbours to the south and colleagues worldwide gather to discuss the evolution of patient-centred care, we must challenge ourselves to evolve alongside them.
I enjoyed visiting the Elevate PX conference hosted by the Beryl Institute in Dallas, Texas, from March 27 to 29, 2023. One speaker believed that everyone present at the conference would be willing to act on negative complaints from patients and families. While this may indeed be true for those who were at the conference to learn about and improve patient experience, it is not a statement we can confidently make about the overall Canadian healthcare landscape. So how can we make what this speaker said a reality?
The conversations hosted at this conference offer a unique opportunity for growth, improvement and change. My conversations with attendees at this conference sparked motivation, passion and inspiration in me. In this piece, I will focus on some reflections from the conference and a call to action.
Let Us Think about Our Language
As a Canadian healthcare professional, I was surprised by the number of times I heard presenters mentioning “patient activation” when referring to positive patient experience outcomes. My surprise comes from the connotation regarding patients being “activated.” Some presenters resisted the term, viewing it as condescending to patients who are always "active." This resistance stems from a desire to reflect on the dynamic nature of patient experience through terms such as patient and family engagement. Instead of focusing on "activating" patients, we should prioritize empowering them to make informed decisions about their health and care.
Another point of interest was the concept of "patient loyalty." Although this phrase is seldom used in Canada, it reflects the importance of patient retention as an indicator of revenue in other healthcare systems. Canadian healthcare professionals can learn a tremendous amount from the concept of patient loyalty, especially as it pertains to fostering trust and creating a positive care experience.
The evolution of how we discuss patient-centred care is also noteworthy. Over time, the terminology has shifted from "patient-centred" to "patient experience," "person-centred care" and "patient engagement." The most recent iteration, "human experience," highlights the importance of considering each patient's unique perspective and context when providing care. We must consider the conversation surrounding “human experience” and “humane experiences” in Canadian healthcare.
While technology has helped to advance clinical engagement, we must look beyond this level of involvement. Canada has made strides in engaging patients in organizational activities, such as governance, committees and leadership. However, we must continue pushing the boundaries of patient involvement, ensuring that their voices are heard and valued at every healthcare system level.
In the US, the business case for cost savings and revenue growth has driven significant advancements in patient experience, leading to the development of numerous technologies and companies focused on this area. While Canada excels in research, we must prioritize implementation to remain competitive globally. Based on the many conversations I had with the exhibitors, I was impressed by the number of technological solutions that can improve patient and family experiences. I genuinely think we are behind in the patient experience implementation journey.
An insightful speaker at the conference said, "a vision without action is a hallucination." This quotation is particularly relevant when considering how hospitals "walk the talk" regarding patient and family engagement. As we evaluate our healthcare institutions, we must hold them accountable for their promises of meaningful patient involvement. I am happy to say that my time as a PhD student at the University of Toronto studying this topic is coming to a culmination this year. I am excited to share my findings and support hospitals in aligning their goals for patient and family engagement and practices.
At Elevate PX, speakers shared their insights on how human experience shapes a global understanding of healthcare. This worldwide perspective underscores the need for Canada to adapt and learn from the experiences of others continually. One valuable resource that emerged from the conference that may be useful for Canadian initiatives was the Experience Framework by the Beryl Institute, which offers a comprehensive approach to understanding and improving patient experience.
A Call to Action
So, where do we go from here? The call to action for Canada is clear: We must engage with global conversations, learn from the successes and challenges of other healthcare systems and apply these lessons to our context. We must prioritize implementing innovative technological solutions, not just in research but also in practice. And, above all, we must commit to human and humane experiences, value their voices and incorporate their unique perspectives in every part of the healthcare system.
It is time for Canada to embrace change and push the boundaries of patient empowerment. This means investing in technologies that facilitate better human experiences, creating a culture of transparency and trust and incorporating patients as partners in healthcare decision making. We must challenge outdated assumptions and re-evaluate our current practices to ensure that we are truly meeting the needs of our patients and their families.
Canada has the potential to lead the world in patient empowerment, but we must be willing to take bold, decisive action. We must leverage our strengths in research while also learning from the experiences of others. By working together to create a truly patient-centred healthcare system, we can ensure that Canada can become a global leader in healthcare, delivering compassionate and effective care to all its citizens. The time for change is now, and the call to action has never been clearer. Let us rise to the challenge and shape a better future for healthcare in Canada.
Conflict of Interest
Umair Majid is the President of The Methodologists (TMT) Corp., which supports health service organizations to design person-centered health services using rigorous research and meaningful engagement. Learn more at https://www.methodologists.org/.
About the Author(s)
Umair Majid, MSc, MEd, PhD (c) is a research methodologist and health system performance expert. He collaborates with health systems, government agencies and organizations to optimize intervention design, delivery and evaluation. His extensive work spans diverse fields, including patient engagement, maternal health and urban planning for marginalized populations.
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