Patients* and the family members of patients from across the province are playing a pivotal role in co-designing the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) to ensure the health care system is centred on patient needs. Engaging patients and families as active partners in the key areas of governance, strategy and policy as well as wherever care is delivered is our goal. In the coming weeks, as part of SHA’s one-year anniversary celebrations, we are featuring the stories of patient and family advisors who are actively involved in the improvement of the health care system. They discuss why they got involved, how they are engaged, and their hopes for the SHA’s future.
Dennis Patterson likes to joke that when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), the doctor told him he had only five years to live. So he moved to Regina so it would feel like an eternity.
“What can I say? I’m a Bombers fan,” said Patterson, a former Manitoba resident who moved to Regina with his wife in 2003.
Patterson is a patient advisor with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA). The one truthful part of his story is that he has MS. He’s had the disease for 18 years and plans to be around for several more.
He became a patient advisor this past summer and has already taken part in a number of committees.
Dennis Patterson, pictured at Pasqua Hospital, is hopeful amalgamation will lead to more standardized patient care.
He’s a member of a group that’s looking at ways to improve the hospital discharge process for patients with complex medical issues. He’s on the focus group for Choosing Wisely, an initiative that promotes conversations between clinicians and patients with the aim of reducing unnecessary tests and treatments. He has also participated in an advisory partnership forum where he learned about the role of the patient advisor and on an organizational planning committee for Quality, Safety and Strategy.
Although his work as an SHA patient advisor is relatively new, Patterson has been working hard to improve health care for some time, getting involved about the time of his MS diagnosis.
“I was advocating for myself, so I just started advocating for everybody,” said Patterson who, as a veteran, was part of a lengthy and successful litigation to gain health care coverage for all veterans with MS.
Much of his interest in improving health care has revolved around directly supporting MS patients and improving MS services in the province. He is chair of the Saskatchewan division of the MS Society of Canada’s board of directors and he is currently sitting on a panel that’s developing a provincial MS care pathway to standardize care.
Patterson anticipates that, with the amalgamation of 12 health regions into one authority, diagnosis and treatment for all patients will improve, aided by the implementation of provincial care treatment pathways such as the one he’s working on. A treatment pathway is a standardized interdisciplinary map that clinicians use as a guide for patient care.
“Pathways can be done for anything – diabetes, cancer or a bum knee. If a patient in Swift Current comes into the doctor’s office with a particular condition that can’t be treated in that city, the doctor can refer to the pathway and say ‘Let’s get you in to see Dr. X in Regina.'
Having pathways would give the patient the feeling that they’re always being looked after.”
He’s optimistic that services will be better co-ordinated and aligned and, through increased patient and family engagement in the health care system, more peer support will be available.
“I’m a big proponent of peer support,” he said. “If you go to the hospital to the cancer ward, I’d like people to have the option of phoning another person the same age and talk to them and see what they’ve been through. It will cut out a lot of heartache and get you going on the path you need to sooner.”
He encourages anyone with the time and ability to get involved in our health care system.
“People get discouraged and say, ‘I can’t change anything. I’ll sit on the couch and wait for a cure.’ I got involved to educate myself. It was part of getting healthy.”
He said although staff may initially feel reticent about the presence of patient and family advisors, it’s important for them to know that the advisors are not there to tell them how to do their jobs.
“We know you know how to do that. We’re simply asking to be heard. If it’s valuable, use it, if it’s not, move on. It’s important for everybody to have a voice.”
Patterson sees provincial amalgamation as a great opportunity to create a truly patient and family centred health care system.
“This is the land of medicare. We owe it to the people of Saskatchewan to get it right.”
*“Patients” is an all-encompassing term that includes patients, clients, and residents.