A conversation between Alies Maybee and Anna Greenberg
Anna Greenberg: One of the widest chasms in digital health care today is the divide between people’s wish to access their own medical records electronically and their ability to do so. According to a 2018 Canada Health Infoway survey, 74% of Ontario residents who currently have no access would like electronic access to their health records, and only 31% currently can access their own health records.
One of the most convenient ways for patients to access their medical information is through a patient portal. These have existed for more than a decade at individual hospitals and are now becoming more widespread – but still only to provide information from one institution.
Depending on the portal, patients can view:
• Physician notes, personal medical history and medication records
• Laboratory and test results
• Appointment details
• Electronic means of communicating with your physician
• General medical and health information
On our own patient and family advisory council, only a few members have had experience with such a portal. Those who did told us it made a world of difference. Others talked of struggling to assemble this type of information themselves.
Alies Maybee: I recently attended a conference hosted by Canada Health Infoway where Julie Drury, chair of the Ontario Minister’s Patient and Family Advisory Council, described the challenges of compiling and managing information about her daughter’s care at multiple hospitals. She showed the huge mound of paper binders of medical information that she had to cart around and keep updated. And this was only a few years ago. I think patient portals have the potential to significantly ease this burden, but portals need to give patients access to more of their information and be better connected with each other when they exist at different care settings.
A Conversation with patient and family advisor Margo Twohig and Chief of Communications and Patient Partnering, Jennifer Schipper
Margo Twohig: I am totally supportive of the idea of patients being involved in the hiring practices at health care organizations. Patients should be involved in the hiring at all levels – those cleaning the building at night, working in the pharmacy, at the bedside, on the senior team – because everyone is part of the delivery of care of the organization.
Jennifer Schipper: There is surprisingly little data assessing the benefits of involving patients or family members on selection committees making staffing decisions in health care organizations. What published evidence does exist has been very positive. One of the only available Canadian studies was published in the Patient Experience Journal in 2015 and comes from researchers from Providence Health Care in B.C. An assessment was conducted with 30 candidates who were interviewed in a process that involved patient interviewers. The assessment also involved health-care leaders at Providence and patients and family members who participated in the process. The researchers concluded involving patients in the interview process had a positive impact.
Moving from good to excellent in the delivery of quality health care is a journey that will never end – better has no limit.
Health Quality Ontario issues a call-to-action for health system quality improvement in Ontario.
New council gives us opportunities for patients, families and the public to inform our work.