Focusing on the patient’s perspective

There are a number of players in the patient safety and quality improvement game, from governments to health care providers and everyone in between.  They all have a vested interest in the quality of healthcare being delivered and they all bring a unique perspective to the issues.

As important as these perspectives are to improving patient safety and quality and giving people the kind of healthcare they deserve, they are all secondary to that of the patient.   This is the reason why stories of preventable harm told by those who have experienced them first-hand are powerful enough to stop us in our tracks – they force us to take notice of the human side of healthcare and of the impact patient safety incidents can have on patients and their families.

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to Patients for Patient Safety Canada, a patient-led program of the Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI), which works to ensure the voice of the patient is never drowned out in the din of the health care system.

Patients for Patient Safety Canada works to ensure that health care organizations and systems include the patient and family perspective when making decisions and planning safety and quality improvement initiatives.  They are fuelled by the belief and the knowledge that there is no greater stakeholder in the effort to improve patient safety than patients and their families.  Their members are fixtures of CPSI working groups as we work together to achieve our common goal.

During Canada’s Virtual Forum on Patient Safety and Quality Improvement in 2011, we began each day with a patient story recounted by Patients for Patient Safety Canada members.  These gripping and emotional stories of unimaginable loss and grief served as a reminder to the thousands watching in more than 800 sites and 17 countries around the world, of the importance of patient safety and why we should accept no less than safe care. It came as no surprise that these stories were the highlight of the Virtual Forum. They have since been viewed hundreds of times on our YouTube channel and have been used by health care providers across Canada as part of their local patient safety and quality improvement initiatives to reemphasize the importance of the patient voice.

Patients for Patient Safety Canada members bring the patient voice to conferences such as the past Halifax series, the Manitoba Patient Safety Conference, the Health Council of Canada Patient Engagement Symposium, plus many more at the regional, provincial and national level where the personal accounts of harm reach the hearts and minds of the audience, spurring on needed improvements to make “every patient safe”.  Members present to medical and nursing students, universities, colleges and healthcare facilities. Co-chair, Donna Davis of Saskatchewan was recently featured in CPSI’s Hands in Healthcare magazine as one of the key influencers in patient safety in Canada.

As one member, Raeline McGrath, of Newfoundland, so eloquently put it, “Every time our stories are heard, every time one person takes something from them, things are a little better, a little safer for those who come behind us in the system.”

Patients for Patient Safety Canada members also sit on boards and committees across Canada, such as the Accreditation Canada Program Advisory Board, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health’s Critical Incident Review Committee and Providence Health Care’s Risk Management Committee. The very presence of a patient or a family member at the table changes the conversation. It keeps the focus on the patient and adds a perspective that only the patient and family can provide.

In recent years, membership in Patients for Patient Safety Canada has grown to more than 50 members as more and more people have come to recognize the value and the impact they can have on the health care system in an effort to ensure the pain and the loss they’ve suffered is not felt by others.

To learn more about this incredible group, the work that they do, and about the possibility of becoming a member, please visit