Making Patients Partners in their Care
When Maureen Smith was eight years old, she was diagnosed with a rare, chronic endocrinological condition. She spent years in and out of different hospitals, being treated by endocrinologists, cardiologists, rheumatologists, orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, allergists, and neuro-ophthalmologists. Although she had a committed family doctor, too often her care fell through the gaps of a complex system.
She was heartened when, in 2019, the CPSO approved four Continuity of Care policies intended to help physicians minimize breakdowns in their patients’ care. But she also understood that the physician role was only one part of a bigger picture. When the College asked a group of patient advocates, which included Ms. Smith, to help create a guide to help patients understand the role they play in facilitating continuity of care, she was all in.
“We wanted a guide that sets out for patients, in lay language, the responsibilities of doctors and the College’s expectations of them, while providing practical advice to patients on what they can do to improve their experiences, and complement their physicians’ efforts,” said Ms. Smith, who helped co-create the guide as a member of the Citizen Advisory Group, an advisory body made up of patients and caregivers who provide input to Ontario’s regulated health colleges on issues and initiatives.
Patients, she said, understand the need to be proactive in their health care, “but if we are going to be partners with our physicians, we need to have the necessary information about the system that allows us to advocate for ourselves.” She said the Continuity of Care Guide for Patients and Caregivers delivers on providing that knowledge.
“The message is that everyone has a role to play in the system and that patients have rights, but they also have responsibilities,” said Ms. Smith.
Dr. Keith Hay, a family physician and CPSO Medical Advisor, said it became clear that a guide for patients and caregivers was essential in the development of the College’s Continuity of Care policies. “While physicians are key facilitators of continuity of care in the Ontario health-care system, there are limits to what any individual physician can do to ensure continuity of care. This resource recognizes the important role patients can play in facilitating their care,” he said.