What Ontario can learn from Kingston General Hospital’s authentic patient-centred reforms

By Cathy Fooks, CEO The Change Foundation

“The change that’s needed won’t come easily or quickly to healthcare. And it won’t come at all if we don’t change the debate, change the practice, 

change the experience.” – The Change Foundation Strategic Plan, 2010-2013

Three years ago I lost my Mom to cancer.  She died at home which was her wish but the struggle we had in dealing with multiple aspects of Ontario’s healthcare system shocked me.  I had worked for over twenty years in the healthcare world and came from a family full of health professionals and yet I could not “navigate” the system effectively for my mother. Why did it have to be like this?

For me it was a burning platform for The Change Foundation to focus its efforts and resources on improving the patient and caregiver experience.

So in 2011, The Foundation’s signature Meeting of the Minds event gathered 50 participants including — health system leaders, patients and caregivers, and care providers — to discuss How to ACE the patient experience?   Our dynamic keynote speaker, Barbara Balik of The Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI) came to share her experience in working with organizations that are serious about creating patient-centred care.  Balik says the shift from “doing to” to “doing for” patients must move to “working with” patients and families as equal partners in decision-making about their care.

Sitting quietly in the audience was, Eleanor Rivoire, a VP at Kingston General Hospital (KGH).  A few days after the meeting was over, I received an email from KGH’s dynamic CEO, Leslee Thompson.  She said that Eleanor had come back all fired up from our meeting and that I might be interested in the work they were doing with their patients and families as they reorganized the way they provided care all grounded in its bold KGH 2015: Strategy for Outstanding Care Always.

At the operational level, KGH’s fundamental shift in organizational culture started by truly embedding patients in all levels of decision-making from top boardroom tables to frontline staff hiring panels, with a focus on quality, safety and service.  At the centre, was the creation of 17-member Patient and Family Advisory Council comprised of twelve volunteer-patients and four staff and a physician.   It was clear that KGH was on its way to embodying the genuine, transformative shift Balik prescribes; and the organization had much to teach others walking Ontario’s Excellent Care For All Act mandated quality-improvement path.

I was so impressed by KGH’s patient-centred progress, that last September, I invited Eleanor and her team to make a presentation to The Change Foundation board and offered an online profile of their work.  We also heard from KGH Patient Advisor, Jennifer Dee who spoke poignantly about her own harrowing healthcare experience and how she was using it to make a difference; and Daryl Bell, KGH”s Patient Advisory Council Lead, on the transformative value of adding the missing patient voice to healthcare discussions.

I share KGH’s story of improving the patient experience within its walls, because it holds wider lessons on how to improve patient experience across the continuum of care. That could mean going from your family doctor to specialists, to having tests at various clinics, or moving from hospital to home, with home-care services, or going to a nursing home.   Patients and their families must be included as equal partners to help transform and redesign our healthcare “system” to achieve a seamless journey and high quality care.  The Foundation offers its best advice on how Ontario can move closer to an integrated health system and improve patient experience in Winning Conditions to Improve Patient Care (November 2011)

Read our KGH profile and see video interviews with KGH leaders (below):

 Eleanor Rivoire, Senior VP Clinical Administration and Professional Practice and Chief Nursing Executive, on changing culture • Daryl Bell, Co-Chair, Patient Advisory Council, on the why & how of adding the patient voice • Jennifer Dee, Patient Experience Advisor, on using her bad healthcare experience to make a difference.

The Change Foundation is committed to working with patients like you to improve the experience of individuals and caregivers as they move in, out of, and across the healthcare system over time as their health changes, particularly at transitions.  Share Your Story with The Change Foundation to help change the story.  

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