Patients Bring Valuable, Lived Experience Insights to Accreditation Survey Teams

August 14, 2017

Surveyors MonfortAccreditation Canada (AC) is breaking new ground by engaging patients as full members of its on-site survey teams, much to the delight of a world-renowned expert on patient-centered health.

“The best people to speak on and assess the patient pathway are the patients themselves,” says Vincent Dumez, Co-Director of the Centre of Excellence on Partnering with Patients and the Public (CEPPP) at the Université de Montréal.

Dumez, who is also a Patient Partner at AC and its affiliate Health Standards Organization (HSO), notes that patients have experience with health systems that gives them an important voice and vital role to play, alongside providers and policy-makers: “Having a patient as a surveyor brings the end-user on board,” Dumez says.

This spring, AC began working with experienced patients to co-design a purposeful role for patients in the accreditation survey process. Since then, AC has begun recruiting patient surveyors – a drive that has met with early success. The call for patient surveyors on AC’s LinkedIn page has received more than 11,000 impressions since being posted on July 21, 2017.

Leslee J. Thompson, CEO of AC and HSO, says including patients on surveyor teams is one of the “most profound changes” AC has made recently. “Who better to be a part of the assessment of whether organizations are living the philosophy of Client- and Family-Centred Care (CFCC) than patients?” says Thompson.

She notes that AC sees patients as lived experience experts, being equal partners and having an equal voice as members of the survey team. “We’re taking the philosophy of ‘nothing about you without you’ and making it real in every possible way,” Thompson says. She adds that AC wants lived experience experts to bring the unique patient perspective to light.

Dumez says that there are many chronic patients and family members of chronic patients in the health system, or as he puts it: “A lot of very experienced people, and that’s probably why there’s so much interest,” he said.

Dumez himself lives with serious chronic illnesses. He’s been actively involved in the thinking about, and promotion of, the concept of the ‘patient partner’ in his university role over several years.

“I’ve been experiencing the health care system for the last 40 years,” Dumez said. “I don’t express myself as a health care professional, but I have significant experience as a recipient of care.”

Adrienne Zarem, Chair of the Family Leader Accreditation Group (FLAG) at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto and another patient partner at AC and HSO, says including patients on survey teams lends authenticity and credibility to the CFCC content in HSO’s standards.

She notes that by including patients on its own teams, AC is showing its commitment to what it is asking health care organizations to do. “Unless we’re walking the walk, I don’t think it’s as genuine,” Zarem says. “It really lends authenticity and credibility to the process we’re saying is important for the institutions that we are accrediting.”

Zarem notes that the fact that health care institutions and accrediting bodies such as AC are actively seeking out patient and family input, and seeking to integrate these key players into everything they do, is exciting.

“For AC and HSO to actively go forth in making this process a reality – seeking out patients and family members – I think it’s exciting and it’s really innovative,” she says.

Zarem has experience as a caregiver in the health system, having a daughter who was diagnosed with autism as a 2-year-old. “I was thrust into the caregiver role at that point,” she said. Since then, Zarem says she has aligned herself with Holland Bloorview, being a part of FLAG and helping the organization prepare for its upcoming accreditation survey in October.

The first round of applications for patient surveyors closed Aug. 25, 2017. Moving forward, AC will train the recruited surveyors, aiming to place them on more survey teams in Canada in 2018 and on international accreditation survey teams in 2019.

Want to meet another AC and HSO patient partner? Get to know our Patient Expert, Claudia Houle.