Patient Partner Adds Real Value to Survey Team: Senior Quality Advisor

June 7, 2017

Accreditation Canada (AC) and its affiliate – Health Standards Organization (HSO) – are putting the philosophy of People Powered HealthTM into action, by putting people at the centre of programs and services. According to at least one Quebec health quality leader, the approach is already paying off in real ways.

Marie Laplante is Senior Advisor, Risk, Quality and Performance at Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux (CISSS) des Laurentides, in Saint-Jérôme, Que. Her organization recently underwent the first-ever formal assessment survey with patients as full members of the survey team.

“We were extremely happy to be selected for this project, to integrate a patient partner as a surveyor,” Laplante said. “We felt privileged.”

Laplante suggests the new approach strengthens assessment services and the practice of person-centred care by integrating patients in clearly defined and purposeful roles on survey teams. Patient surveyors will become increasingly more common throughout 2017, and eventually part of every on-site survey.

AC’s current standards for Canadian health services providers reflect the latest research in person-centred care. This approach is due to be released for standards used globally in January 2018, with assessments taking place in 2019.

In recent months, patient partners have observed surveys and surveyor orientation, and participated in co-design sessions to identify ways patient partners can add value to the survey process. Patient partners are also joining survey teams to test the various functions they can fulfill during the on-site survey. AC and HSO are working with health providers to ensure patient surveyors add maximum value at every turn.

The survey CISSS des Laurentides took place May 14-19, 2017. During this time, a patient partner led the focus group with patients, participated in leadership discussions, conducted clinical tracers and recorded his questions and comments for further reflection and deliberation with the co-design team.

Laplante noted that CISSS des Laurentides’ patient partner experience was positive, and shone light on issues from a unique, patient-centred perspective. “His comments and suggestions were very relevant,” Laplante said. “He really took his role seriously.”

She added that while traditional AC surveyors have lots of valuable experience, it can be challenging for them to evaluate certain aspects, such as partnerships in care. Laplante noted that the patient partner brings added value to the survey process by stressing the importance that organizations must give to the patient’s presence as well as that of their family members.

“His presence brought these elements back in a way that was more effective than any other surveyor,” she said. She further noted that for an organization who is trying to develop a more person-centred approach, the patient partner is a “very important” player.

“We know that the accreditation survey has an impact on all of our services,” Laplante said. “Adding the patient partner element to it really adds value to the accreditation process.”

Laplante noted that by integrating patient partners on surveyor teams, AC and HSO are demonstrating their commitment to developing a health care culture that is more focused on patients and their families being active partners in their care. She said that it may take a while for organizations to see the added value of patient partners in some of their processes.

“It’s a culture to be developed,” Laplante said. “But as [AC and HSO] have integrated this element into the standards, it facilitates the development of this approach in our organization.” She added that AC and HSO are leading by example. “You are putting into practice the principles that you want [organizations] to put into practice.”

Laplante noted that patient partners offer a different perspective, because they have a better understanding of their condition and their needs. “We, as medical professionals, have protocols that provide us with good practices,” she said, “but if we analyze [a patient’s] needs in direct partnership with them, we ensure better compliance with treatment, better follow up and, better satisfaction with our services.”

The AC and HSO patient partner on the CISSS des Laurentides survey was Mario Di Carlo. Di Carlo was diagnosed with polio as an infant and uses a motorized scooter to overcome significant, enduring physical effects with which he lives daily. A lifetime of interactions with health systems has given him valuable insights to improve quality journeys.

An accomplished professional, Di Carlo is on the board of several non-profit organizations related to health, poverty and education. In the last few years, his involvement in patient engagement projects has become his main focus. Di Carlo participates in research, education, co-designing and speaking engagements.

Di Carlo noted that he was “delighted” with CISSS des Laurentides’ ongoing implementation of patient partnership initiatives. “An enthusiastic team of patient partners is in place,” Di Carlo said. “Some projects have already been started.” He added that CISSS des Laurentides should focus on ensuring their patient partners are well supported in their roles and functions moving forward.

Currently, two patient partners are working with the AC and HSO co-design team towards defining their role. Additional patient partners will be recruited over the summer. For more details or to get involved, visit