Who speaks for patients? Patients do.
I’m happy to see the surge of patient experience and patient centred care themed conferences around Canada. This is a good start.
But theming a conference as patient centred is not enough. This is only the first step in the evolution of inviting the patient voice to share experiences and provide feedback to health professionals.
Many of these conferences have health professionals, researchers or administrators speaking about patient centred care. Or they don their but everybody is a patient hat and talk on behalf of patients.
There is sad irony about having professionals speak on behalf of patients at a patient centred care conference. Patient centred care is about doing things with us, not to us or for us.
I understand why conference organizers bring in health professionals who have had experience as a patient to speak. These speakers are colleagues of the audience members, and are likely seen as less threatening than a layperson patient speaker. But I think the idea of using a patient speaker who is not a health professional is a bold one.
If we move along the evolution, a layperson patient speaker is asked to present. Finally we are starting to model patient centred care. (Even better? At Canadian conferences, patient speakers have local Canadian context).
The different kinds of speaking spots offer varying levels of involvement, too: from speaking as a panel member, to a break-out session, to opening or closing a conference.
Normally, an opening plenary session is the most prestigious of all speaking spots. But I think if you are truly going to model patient centred care, this spot is not occupied by a lone patient speaker. Instead, the patient speaker co-presents with a health professional. They don’t present two separate presentations; they spend time preparing a collaborative presentation. They truly share the podium.
And if you add a patient representative on your conference organizing committee? Voila: you have full-blown patient collaboration. And then you are walking the walk, folks.
I have created this handy The Ten Levels of Health Conference Evolution table that health conference organizers can use as reference: