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Community Health Advisory Councils offer insights into public's expectations of health-care system

Community Health Advisory Councils offer insights into public's expectations of health-care system
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Report: Public expectations of the health-care system

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, Summer 2010

What do you expect of the health-care system?

It's a deceptively complex question, one capable of eliciting many answers. So, to get a better understanding of what the public does expect from its health-care system, the Winnipeg Health Region turned to its Community Health Advisory Councils (CHAC) for help.

About 85 members of six community councils located throughout the city were asked to ponder the question last fall. The results of their discussions are contained in a new report, entitled Public Expectations of the Health-Care System.

As part of its report, the volunteer health advisory council members developed a list of what they consider "reasonable" and "unreasonable" expectations. They also offered suggestions on how the Region can better communicate with the public on health-care issues.

Reasonable expectations of the healthcare system, according to the health advisory councils, included timely access to care; that health-care providers be respectful and compassionate; and that information about disease prevention and health promotion be made available.

At the same time, the health advisory councils said it is unreasonable to expect that funding for health care is infinite, that people should be able to access health care for any issue at any time, and that the health-care system could "fix everyone."

Suggestions to manage expectations included better communication around wait times at hospital emergency departments and specific ideas on how to educate and inform people about when it's appropriate to access various health services, such as the emergency departments, urgent care, primary care clinics or their family doctor.

The health advisory councils, established in 2002, provide the Region with an opportunity to have a two-way conversation with members of the community about the delivery of health-care services.

Over the years, health advisory council members have provided innovative suggestions on topics ranging from patient safety to compassionate care, and their input has helped shape the direction of many programs and initiatives. Their report on public expectations will be used by the Region's Board, as well as its funded agencies and community programs.

"The work done by CHAC is a valuable resource for us," says Arlene Wilgosh, President & CEO of the Winnipeg Health Region. "As a health region, a patient-first focus is a priority for us, and the partnership we have with CHAC provides an important community voice and perspective that will help improve the health and wellbeing of the people we serve."

Johnanne Drabchuk just finished her first year of a three-year term as a health advisory council member for the River East/ Transcona health advisory council. Her motivation for volunteering is straightforward. "I want something better for my kids, and eventually I'm going to be getting older too and will probably need more healthcare services."

Report Highlights

Here are some of the highlights from the Community Health Advisory Councils' report:

Reasonable expectations include:

  • The right to primary care.
  • Fair and equitable access to health care for all.
  • Timely access to primary care, specialists, diagnostics and treatment.
  • Respectful and compassionate care.
  • Electronic medical records.
  • More resources for disease prevention and health promotion.
  • The use of most current technology.
  • Provide health care in the community when possible.

Unreasonable expectations include:

  • That the health-care system can fix everyone and that people do not have any responsibility for their own well-being.
  • That funding for health care is infinite.
  • That people should be able to access health care for any issue at any time.
  • That people with non-urgent medical issues receive immediate care at emergency departments.

The health advisory councils agreed that it was important for the Winnipeg Health Region to tell the public what to expect when they use the health-care system. In order to do this, the Region should:

  • Ensure the first contact at a health-care site spends a few minutes with the patient or client outlining what they can expect during their appointment, diagnostic test, etc., including the time that they can expect to be waiting.
  • Use TVs at emergency departments and other health-care sites to provide relevant information to the public, patients and families. Many pointed to the Winnipeg Health Region's pilot project at Seven Oaks General Hospital's emergency department as a good example of how well this works as a communication strategy and tool. Wait times could be posted and updated.
  • Use media campaigns to inform the public about what to expect when using health services and educate them about using them appropriately.
  • Use the Region's website, social networking sites and other vehicles of mass communication to communicate with the public about health care issues.

Wave

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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