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Patients help lead changes to NB health system through research

Patients help lead changes to NB health system through research

Hospital to Home pharmacy project aims to improve communication with seniors about their medications after leaving the hospital

Engaging patient perspectives in research can be a challenging endeavour, but a New Brunswick researcher found that patient knowledge and experience elevated her project in ways she never expected.

Carole Goodine is studying how to improve communication with pharmacists and seniors about their medications after being discharged from the hospital. She engaged two patients on her research team that she says helped her focus on the real issues and find effective solutions.

“I don’t think we can reform and make changes in health care unless we really have a good idea of what our patients are experiencing when they’re in the system…,” says Goodine. “I really feel they are a key element to the research.”

Right away Goodine learned from her patient partners that discharge was not the appropriate time to teach patients about their medications.

“They’re more concerned about who’s picking them up and what’s in their fridge when they get home.”

This shifted her research to look beyond just what information they need to share with seniors, but also how and when. Goodine says the patient partners could easily identify areas of improvement, quickly moving the research forward.

“I guess I knew it, but it wasn’t really until the patient partners pointed it out to us that we’re not doing a very good job of providing them with written instructions.”

This finding resulted in the creation of a patient-friendly pamphlet – reviewed by patient partners – to provide the specific information patients need.

A passion project for a career pharmacist

Goodine is a long-time pharmacist who is passionate about improving patient and healthcare outcomes through research, innovation, and quality improvement.

“This is something that is near and dear to my heart,” says Goodine, who is a clinical pharmacy manager at Horizon Health Network.

Her project titled: Facilitating Transitions of Care between Pharmacy Practice Settings and Improving Patient Knowledge and Experience at Hospital Discharge: Hospital to Home Pharmacy Project, is one of several Healthy Seniors Pilot Projects funded by provincial and federal governments.

Goodine initiated the project after seeing so many older adults come into the hospital with a life changing event and then leave with a slew of new medications and changes to existing therapies. These changes were often discussed at discharge, she says, which can already be a confusing a challenging time for patients and their families.

“It’s not uncommon to have a patient go home with five or more new prescriptions after a heart attack, so the question is, how do we best provide them with the information they need to understand these changes when they get home.”

Goodine says pharmacists are well positioned to empower and help patients manage their medications and chronic health conditions and a pharmacy-led program could have a significant impact on the health and well-being of seniors living in New Brunswick. The project also aims to improve communication between hospital and pharmacy teams.

The project has 17 participating community pharmacies in Fredericton and data is currently being collected within the health system to evaluate the impact of the pilot program stemming from the research.

Learning to engage patients as partners

Researchers are still learning how to conduct patient-oriented research, and that’s why the Maritime SPOR SUPPORT Unit (MSSU) is here to help researchers, like Goodine, meaningfully engage patients in their research.

“The MSSU has a wonderful training session that helped me really understand what patient-oriented research is and the value of patient engagement,” says Goodine. The MSSU also helped her recruit a patient partner, provided guidance on compensation and acknowledgment, and shared how patients could be involved throughout the research process.

From the grant writing and data collection to identifying themes and co-creating patient-friendly materials, Goodine says patient engagement led to “a much richer end product” while also providing a valuable experience for patients to have their voices heard.

Goodine knows from personal experience with her mother that when you are a patient or caregiver in the system, you are hesitant to criticize or ask too many questions for fear that it will change the care you are getting.

“You don’t want to be seen as the problem patient or the person that’s being difficult. So, if we can’t do it within the system, then we need to figure out how to do it outside or around the system.”

That is what the Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) is all about – expanding the role of patient to be a proactive partner in moving research forward in ways that matter most to patients.

“The patient partners were our biggest cheerleaders. It was so wonderful when they would say we really appreciate that you’re doing this work – it’s important work that needs to be done.”

To learn more about patient-oriented research or how the MSSU can support you in engaging patients, visit mssu.ca

Patients help lead changes to NB health system through research