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‘I felt welcomed’: 25 patients attend the CMA’s first-ever Health Summit

In a convention hall filled with hundreds of physicians, Jeannie Gurr makes her way to microphone #4. When it’s her turn, the retired teacher tells a panel of health care leaders about the lack of digital health care in her rural Métis community and asks what can be done to ensure equal access to technology.

For Gurr, it is a chance to make her voice heard.

“I was scared to go up to the microphone, but I had to represent my community,” she said.

“I had doctors come up to me after and engage with me, which really surprised me. I had some come up and thank me for my comments.”

Gurr was one of 25 patients that the CMA sponsored to attend its first-ever Health Summit this August in Winnipeg. Those patients were chosen from hundreds of applications from across Canada and have extensive experience with the health care system; navigating their own health issues; taking care of sick loved ones and advocating for patient groups. Their participation is part of the CMA’s ongoing commitment to the patient perspective.

“Having patients involved in this year’s Health Summit is part of the CMA’s new 360-degree view of health care,” said CMA President Dr. Gigi Osler. “By bringing together people from all different backgrounds to talk solutions for change, we can better prepare for the challenges ahead.”

Alongside more than 700 physicians and health stakeholders, the patient group took part in two days of presentations and panels related to this year’s theme: innovation in health care. Whether through the integration of augmented intelligence (AI) in clinical care or increased patient empowerment through access to data and electronic medical records, the underlying message was clear: now is the time for change.

“One of the things I’m taking away from this that was really fascinating to me, was hearing from the point of view of the providers,” said Julie Drury, a sponsored patient and the first chair of the Ontario Health Minister’s patient and family advisory council.

Drury says many physicians speaking at the Health Summit were beyond excited about technologies such as AI and eHealth and how they could improve the patient experience. But she felt they were also overwhelmed. They expressed frustration at a slow-moving system bogged down by outdated regulatory, policy and governing structures.

“And so I came away with a sense of what can I do as a patient advisor leader, in my role, to try and relate that back to the powers that be to say there are ways that we can work more efficiently, more effectively,” said Drury.

“We can support our providers, and that’s important to patients, that’s important that our providers are well-supported, that they have not only the technology, but the support to actually use that technology and innovation.”

Drury says the partnerships created at events such as the Health Summit can be as valuable to the future of health care as all of the robots, devices and sensors.

“I think that’s the innovation; mobilizing providers and patients working together,” she said.

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