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Top 5 Health Trends #3: Patient as Partner

Woman talking to her male doctor
Patients and caregivers will take a more active role in their care

Patient as Partner:

Though they aren’t always done successfully, every health care organization is looking to engage patients and caregivers in co-designing solutions as part of a patient and family advisory committee (PFAC). In fact, it’s part and parcel of the accreditation process by Accreditation Canada—the seal of approval for most health care organizations.

But really, I think more important to this is that patients and caregivers are starting to DEMAND it. Social media has had a big role in this. Not just because of the “ratings games” that happen, but also because there are patient advocacy groups out there like the national Patient Advisors Network, Patients as Partners Initiative in British Columbia or The Change Foundation in Ontario among others, raising the profile of patient and caregiver needs.

There are also hundreds, perhaps thousands of patient groups in the “Meta” verse (I’m looking at you #Facebook) where patients are swapping stories, advice and advocacy tips behind the member wall. Dr. Google might be an annoyance to some old-school doctors, but it is arming patients and caregivers with knowledge (some ral, some dangerously not). Instead of fighting this reality, medical teams should be helping to educate patients of reliable information sources for more information. One important guide for a growing group of web surfers, seniors, might want to start at the National Institute of Aging's guide which is U.S.-focused but offers some solid tips.

group of patient and caregiver advisors
Patient and caregiver advisories still have a ways to get to true partnership

The shift (thankfully) means we’re moving away from “patient/caregiver as passive participant” to them being an active and contributing member of treatment.

While the medical community is talking a good game on this, my own personal experience with a chronic condition, would suggest there is a way to go. In many scenarios person-centred care is still a poster on the wall and not a daily practice in day-to-day medicine or on patient advisories for that matter. If you're looking for a thorough but straightforward explanation of person-centred care fundamentals, South London's Health Innovation Network offers an excellent overview.

The design thinking process--empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test--on sticky notes
The design thinking process

In fact, this is why I'm so keen, as head of Big Eye Innovation, to bring design thinking to more health care organizations. Design thinking is person-centred and inherently starts at a point of empathy. It is inclusive, giving everyone who is part of the process a voice, avoids pandering to the most powerful person in the room, and is constructed to help you clearly define pain points before you start throwing out ideas.

Still with more health organizations bringing patient experience advocates and even in-house service designers on board, and international “godmothers” like The Beryl Institute out there pushing the patient experience envelope, I’m confident that the next decade will be one of an increasingly empowered patient and caregiver voice.

Want help, using design thinking in your health care organization? Get in touch...


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