“Paper” for the win

Posted Feb 5, 2019

D’Arcy Duquette, Chair, HQCA Patient and Family Advisory Committee   

This is the third part in a series on the value of patient feedback. The first two installments can be found here and here.

HQCA Executive Director, Charlene McBrien-Morrison recently reflected on Alberta’s journey toward patient centredness and closed her piece by posing this question to the HQCA’s Patient and Family Advisory Committee (PFAC):

How can we (healthcare leaders focused on improving healthcare quality) do a better job of “walking the talk” of patient-centredness by listening to and acting on the voice of those we serve?

Part of my charm is being direct, so I will get straight to our recommendations with one request: Please make the commitment to read this response in its entirety. Stop the flurry of activity. Focus. Prepare to hear our PFAC’s thoughts and take the time to listen. If you can do this, thank you. You are already practicing part of our first recommendation.

1.) Come prepared to listen. No doubt when you decided you needed to engage patients in your work, some thinking had already been done around the task at hand. There may have even been some initial conversations about what solutions could/should look like. Please leave these thoughts at the door. Instead, bring your expertise and knowledge of the situation or desired outcome, and be prepared to provide us with enough context to provide you with valuable input.

If you needed to do some preliminary scoping before engaging us, be willing to revise, or even start from scratch, once you hear our perspective. We like the saying, “Do it right, or do it again.” As patients or people with lived experience, let us help you do it right (or at the very least, better). We are confident we can save you a few “Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA)” cycles.

One important note about 1):

If you have already made a decision or cannot bring this openness to the table, please do not engage us for “input” or “feedback”. If you are not going to listen and sincerely consider incorporating our voice into your action plan, you will only create frustration and disappointment (for both sides: patient and leader/provider).

2.) Include experience in your evidence. We hear a lot about evidence-based decision-making. Information or data about our experiences should be part of that evidence, and we applaud the HQCA for including it in their resources like FOCUS on Healthcare. This is part of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s (IHI) Triple Aim, however we feel it is often overshadowed by population health/outcomes and cost.

If we compared the Triple Aim to a game of rock-paper-scissors, we think patient experience would be the paper. While an equal-odds contender, it is not immediately clear how it competes in the game. How could paper possibly overcome rock (hard and heavy) or scissors (sharp)? Never underestimate the underdog, though. When wielded by a skilled competitor who sees the potential in paper’s role, paper can be valuable and powerful (able to win the game as cover over rock). As healthcare leaders, you are in a position to use that “paper”, the patient and lived experience, to its maximum impact and benefit.

3.) Make time to lift up and celebrate those that are listening to and acting on their patients’ feedback. The good news stories MATTER. Far too often, leaders reward good work with silence. They only make time to monitor and criticize those that are not doing their jobs. Make sure your focus is on patient-centred successes.

This can and should happen in a variety of ways. Ideas for how to do this could include:

  • Establish a way to give credit that is meaningful to the individual or team you want to celebrate. It helps to ask how they prefer to receive these kudos. Some appreciate public recognition and others prefer more private acknowledgement. Either way, personalize it. Make sure you provide a specific example of what you appreciated with respect to patient-centredness and what the resulting benefits were.
  • Apply for or nominate individuals or teams for an award. Awards programs like the HQCA’s Patient Experience Awards, RhPAP’s Rhapsody Awards, and Alberta Health Services’ President’s Excellence Awards are just a few examples of formal recognition programs in Alberta that provide opportunities for this. Make time to apply or nominate individuals and teams who are listening to patients and make sure the patient voice can be heard throughout the submission. When we evaluate the Patient Experience Awards submissions, we like to ask, “Where is the patient/client/resident/family?” That helps us make sure the initiatives we are celebrating are truly patient-centred.

Not only do these programs acknowledge the hard work that individuals or teams are doing to deliver patient-centred care, they provide real, local examples to learn from.

Thank you for taking the time to hear a few of our suggestions about how healthcare leaders can “walk the talk” of patient-centredness by listening to and acting on the voice of those you serve. If you have any questions or require additional support, please do not hesitate to ask us. We also want what is best for Albertans with respect to their healthcare.

On the offer to ask us any follow-up questions or share feedback, please feel free to e-mail myself and our team of patient advisors any time at info@hqca.ca. We believe this should always be a two-way conversation.


HQCAMatters is published monthly and presents perspectives on topics or issues relevant to healthcare in Alberta the HQCA considers valuable.