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Health Council Says Put Patients First

Today, the Health Council of Canada releases Turning what we know into action: A commentary on the National Symposium on Patient Engagement , calling for the inclusion of the patient voice when designing, planning and delivering health care services in Canada. The goal of the symposium is to raise awareness of the potential of patient engagement as a means of improving the health care system.

In October 2011, the Health Council of Canada held a national symposium on patient engagement. Patients, representatives from patient organizations, provincial and federal government representatives, researchers, health system administrators and health care providers shared their perspectives on patient-centred care.

A strong message from participants coming out of the symposium is the need to have patient engagement as a performance goal.

The patient experience should be measured at all levels of the health care system. The measurements should be used to set targets for higher quality care that is in keeping with patient experiences and expectations.

An equally strong message echoed by participants is the need to shift from a provider-focused to patient-centred care. To allow patients to take a more active role in their health care, governments and health care providers must shift the way health care is delivered to focus on patient-centred care. Patient-centred care concentrates on relationships that are a two-way exchange of information: patients are empowered, providers are willing to listen to them, and decisions are made as a team.

A recent report released by the Health Council of Canada, How Engaged are Canadians in their Primary Care: Results from the 2010 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey , revealed that only 48% of Canadians feel involved in and are actively participating in their own health care. This means less than half of Canadians are taking a more active role in maintaining their health, oftentimes leading to increased satisfaction with their care. Engaged patients better understand and know more about their care, which leads to better use of health care services and resources. The symposium reinforced these findings.

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