Contributed by Michael Savage
When I joined the OntarioMD team in June 2017, I was excited to be part of an organization that has both a start-up vibe and a true commitment to building a more seamless and connected Ontario health care system. Nearly six months later, that feeling has yet to wear off, because I’ve come to understand that everyone here lives and breathes health care and digital health innovation. As a result, it should come as no surprise that the OntarioMD team has rallied behind the introduction of the international Change Day movement into Ontario this year.
Change Day Ontario is a celebration of the awesome power that individuals committed to change – with a particular emphasis on the health care system – can have collectively. Whether joining a collective pledge to drive a policy shift, or pledging individually to spare some change for every homeless person we walk past, we’re all proving that committing to change creates change. As I write this, more than 3,500 Ontarians have posted a Change Day pledge at changedayontario.ca. That’s 3,500 people who are not just celebrating change as a concept, but acting on their vision for what a better, healthier, more compassionate world can look like.
My pledge for Change Day Ontario is to promote the voices of patients and their families – and to encourage others in the health care sector to do the same. Whether we work on the front lines in direct health care, or in a tech-focused organization tasked with designing the next generation of connected and intelligent health software solutions, we all have an opportunity to listen to the stories of patients and their families, and to bring them to the table to shape our work. OntarioMD’s ongoing ability to offer valuable advice and solutions that optimize practice efficiency and patient care depends on our ability to understand the needs of health care consumers.
To demonstrate both my passion and commitment to patient and family engagement, I’ve pledged to engage in more than 150 conversations with Ontario patients about their experiences with their health information by New Year’s Eve of this year. I’ve already had a handful of eye-opening discussions with Ontarians who are current or former patients. Some of the stories I’ve heard have demonstrated the importance of accessible and transparent patient/family portal systems, which provide patients with access to their health information. One patient I spoke with called their exposure to this innovation “the first time that I truly felt like my providers and I were on the same team.” Conversely, the stories have revealed that, while digital health is helping us collect important patient data, we still have work to do to make patients understand what that data means in clear terms that make sense to them. One patient explained that “I kept being told I needed to get my oxygen levels up to get better. What does that even mean? How does a person get their oxygen levels up? I think I could have gotten a lot better a lot faster if they had just used real-life terms, and just told me I needed to walk around more.”
My Change Day Ontario pledge is just one of the many great pledges made by my OntarioMD colleagues. While Change Day itself is celebrated on November 17, the range of provocative and game-changing commitments made by us at OntarioMD and by others across the province should remind us all that every day is Change Day if we’re committed to a better future.