Changing Ontario’s healthcare system by engaging seniors & caregivers
Friday, May 25th, 2012

Seniors and caregivers don’t want the moon; they don’t necessarily even want more. Their most frequent calls for change revolve around coordination and communication: how primary care providers and specialists collaborate and talk to each other – and to patients and caregivers; how patient health information is coordinated and shared; how health facilities transfer or move patients; how seniors and caregivers are informed – or not – about care options; and how they can be more involved in the decision-making.”

Here at Ascentum, we believe that building the right health care system means listening to and involving patients, their family members, health workers, and members of the broader communities they serve.

Last year, we partnered with The Change Foundation on a groundbreaking project to engage seniors with chronic health conditions, and their family or friend caregivers, to learn more about problems they have experienced moving from one part of the health system to another.  Often called “transitions,” these moves can involve referrals from a family doctor to a specialist, visits to a hospital or from a hospital back home with home care services.

The Change Foundation is a non-profit “think tank that does” and is one of Canada’s leaders in engaging people in its research activities.

We used a blended in-person and online process design to reach hundreds of seniors and caregivers from across Ontario – all the way from Dryden and Timmins up north, to the Regent Park neighbourhood in Toronto.

The Foundation has just released a final report on what we heard, along with a creative microsite with videos, participant stories and feedback mechanisms.  Here’s a snapshot of the top 5 themes heard from participants:

  1. The primacy – and problems – of primary care: Stop the dead ends and make people’s primary care providers accountable for positive transition experiences.
  2. The importance of connections and clarity about next steps: Connect all health workers and make sure people understand what’s happening next I their care journeys.
  3. The communication deficit: Health workers should communicate early and often with each other, and with patients and their caregivers.
  4. The inclusion factor – hey what about us?  Include patients, families and caregivers in decisions that affect their lives and health.
  5. Issues of equity: Don’t let people who are facing barriers fall behind.

From a public involvement perspective, the project shows the power of people’s real-life stories as levers for change.

It was a privilege to work with the team at The Change Foundation; people who are passionate both about improving health care, and doing so by engaging people who see the problems up-close – patients and their families.

I’d encourage you to visit the Foundation’s microsite for the report, at

– Ellis Westwood –

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