Community initiatives are nothing new. But they are more common in the marketing or education sectors. When it comes to healthcare, the divide between professionals and patients is still very strong. However, more and more healthcare professionals, such as Canadian physician A. Boivin, feel handicapped by the limitation of their role. Boivin, who works in a primary care group practice of over 10 000 patients explains that he often struggles with the feeling that he’s bringing an answer to the wrong problem. Working in a disadvantaged neighborhood, he meets patients whose medical issues are exacerbated by existing social and economical problems within the community. Boivin realized that a healthcare physician can only offer a partial answer without being able to address the social, emotional, and economical pressures that patients experience. That’s precisely why he chose to reach out within his patients’ community and find a partner.
A co-led initiative between doctors and patients makes sense as it puts the community back in charge of its own health. While the partnership doesn’t reduce the role of healthcare specialists, it also gives the community the opportunity to support and assist towards better health for all. Health doesn’t have to be a solitary journey.
Engaging health actors from Day One
Bringing the community of patients and other healthcare specialists together can be a challenging journey. But ultimately, it’s a journey that needs to begin with comfortable, convenient, and meaningful interactions. The right interaction keeps the community engaged. Unfortunately, the healthcare sector can still find it difficult to establish the basic rules of patient engagement. Patient engagement puts patients back at the center of care as the process is designed to increase their knowledge and understanding of healthcare. This can only work when every healthcare actor engages in the process to provide informative, honest, and considerate information at every staff level. If the patient is distraught or feels their situation is misrepresented in the diagnosis, they can’t make informed decisions about their well-being and wellness. Patients must perceive that they belong to the health community and can play an active role in seeking the right treatment for their issues. As A. Boivin experiences, a lot of patients feel judged by the healthcare staff and this affects the success and effectiveness of the consultation and treatment. Building trust within the community starts from within, by creating a platform of honest, clear, understandable, and reliable communication between staff and patients.
Encouraging a common goal for local communities
The partnership with healthcare experts and patients can extend outside the realm of the local healthcare center, as St Joseph Renewable Fuels LLC shows in a community-focused initiative. By combining forces with their county partners, the Jasper County community can provide HealthCheckIn on a volunteer-only basis to keep tabs on covid-19 infection rates. This will be a game-changer for the recovery of the community. When communities think of health as a benefit for all rather than an individual effort, people can come together for the greater good.
Making health a community purpose changes the thinking and behavior around healthcare. It becomes a goal that has to be achieved together by doctors and patients. This approach also demystifies the healthcare sector and helps to make health more manageable, achievable, and understandable.