The momentum for including the public in the work to improve healthcare is gaining speed.
About 5 years ago in Canada, we started to see Patient and Family Advisors (PFAs) at local hospitals become popular. Resident and Family Councils have been in place in long term care facilities in many provinces and territories for even longer. And more recently we see citizen councils at local health authorities, at quality councils, at health professional bodies and other types of health organizations.
Some disease-based organizations have had active groups of patients for years. Some examples, HIV/AIDs and mental health.
We can learn from each other. And we can help embed the practice of involving the public working toward a better future for the health and wellness of Canadians.
Structures of Patient Engagement
Advisors are invited by healthcare organizations to join in the work to improve healthcare. Here are the two main models for how advisors are managed.
The Main Type of Patient Engagement
In many cases, healthcare organizations have a "Patient Engagement" person or group. It may have another name, but this is what it does.
This patient engagement team:
- recruits advisors
- orients them to the organization
- prepares the staff to work with advisors
- supports staff and advisors
- takes requests from internal working groups
- assigns advisors within the organization.
The pool of advisors are for the sole use of the organization.
A Secondary Type of Patient Engagement
Some organizations pull together a roster of advisors and make their advisors available to other organizations or groups. These organizations do all the patient engagement functions on behalf of their "clients".
In British Columbia, the Patient Voices Network administered by the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council, is a good example of this. It provides advisors on request for many healthcare organizations and groups throughout BC.
The Patients for Patients Safety Canada, run by the Canadian Patient Safety Institute is another example where the pool of advisors is used for healthcare "clients". It provides advisors for various patient safety initiatives across Canada.