Patient Centred Care Could Have Helped Avoid This One Tragic Death
Patient Perspective In 2012 Greg Price, a fit 30-year-old pilot and engineer was the victim of a series of errors, due largely to systemic miscommunication.
Even worse, it was due to widespread complacency and indifference towards our system's shortcomings. His avoidable death from the complications of testicular cancer is well documented by his family on their Health Arrows website, and extensively analyzed by the Health Quality Council of Alberta in its Continuity of Patient Care Study.
Clearly, so much more could be possible with today’s instantaneous means of communication.
Greg's journey through a maze of confusing systems represents the tremendous challenges some patients and their families have to face when care is needed most badly. His tragic case brings to the fore the huge gaps in communication between patients, doctors, their staff and the system as a whole. The timeliness and clarity of vital health information exchanged is too often compromised by poor processes. The rest of the world has moved on with electronic communication yet our Canadian health care system is inexplicably reliant on outdated communication methods. Sometimes faxes get lost, phone calls go unanswered, and patients wait and can't find answers. Clearly, so much more could be possible with today’s instantaneous means of communication.
How many people are similarly harmed or die because of poor communication practices? It is anyone's guess but we can assume there are many more and in Greg's case, one too many!
Greg’s story certainly calls into question our system's full commitment to patient centred care. Repeatedly Greg sat on the sidelines, waiting and not knowing. As the severity of his condition weighed heavily on his heart he suffered quietly, not wanting to burden his family or his health care providers. To compensate he tried to keep a record of his illness fearing that key information would be lost. He and his family had to learn painstakingly how to navigate through a complex system that presented too many rules and obstacles.
The task ultimately turned out to be too onerous for Greg and his family. Greg lost the battle but his family fights on, hoping to improve a health care system that in so many ways failed Greg. Thanks to their efforts and thanks to the Health Quality Council of Alberta's continued determination to take up his cause, a follow up report, Patient Perspectives on an Electronic Referral System for Alberta was released in January 2016. In this report patients are given a voice to outline their expectations for a truly effective referral system. One thing is clear — patients want and deserve a referral system that is transparent, reliable, flexible, and easy. Patients don’t want to be on the sidelines — they want to know.