Network gives patients a voice in health care

Patient Voices Network holding one-day orientation session Saturday at Penticton Ramada Inn

On Saturday, Pentictonites will be given a chance to gain the tools to make a difference in the province’s health care system. The Patient Voices Network will be hosting a free, one-day orientation at the Ramada Hotel to prepare patients of B.C.’s health care to share their experiences and offer their input as how to improve the system.

Going to the doctor can be a rough experience. Between the antiseptic smell lingering like a ghost in the hospital hallways to the constant shuffling between departments, clinics, nurses and doctors, the experience of the patients isn’t always a comfortable one. However, the Patient Voices Network, an initiative between Interior Health and Patients as Partners, is looking to change that.

“Often in health care, as in any business, you’re looking at it from your point of view, you’re not always looking outside at the people we’re working with,” said Karla Warkotsch, community integration facilitator with Interior Health.

To this end, the Patient Voices Network was started a little over two years ago. The network acts as a bridge, connecting patients to focus groups, committees and learning sessions who want patient input.

“We help the patients so they have a clearer understanding of the role and what the expectations are, and as much background information we can provide them, so when they go in there, they’re fully prepared to be involved,” said Carol Stathers, interior liaison for Patient Voices Network.

Including the patient in talks of improving health care is one of the key ways to really effect change, said Harriet Rogan, a volunteer member of the Patient Voices Network.

“The big thing is the patient is very much a part of the equation in the health care system,” said Rogan. “I think it’s through patient experience is one way the medical system, and the best way the medical system has of finding out what is not working well, what is working well and how we can improve upon things.”

Health organizations will often contact the Patient Voices Network with a request for an ‘active patient,’ the network’s term for a patient who has gone through the orientation and is literate enough in health care to participate in a discussion. The network will then match a patient with criteria the organization asks for, such as a patient who has used a specific service in the past.

However, in the South Okanagan, the service has run into a bit of trouble, due to a lack of participation. Warkotsch said during an Oliver/Osoyoos area process-mapping session, they had quite a hard time finding patients.

“We need to have more patients involved in the changes that are occurring within community services within Interior Health,” she said.

For information or to register, visit www.patientvoices.ca or call 1-888-742-1772.