Putting patients and families first

May 30, 2017

Aileen Alcock, Registered Nurse and Calgary CoACT team lead, pins information to a quality board. The board illustrates how the unit is doing delivering care to patients. This supports accountability and continuous improvement.

CoACT wins President’s Excellence Award for outstanding achievement in patient and family centred care

Story by: Laura Manuel

How will my work affect my mother?

This is what Aileen Alcock, Registered Nurse and Calgary CoACT team lead, thinks about every day. Ever since her mother suffered a broken hip and hospitalization, this personal experience has become a barometer and inspiration for Alcock.

“(The) principles of asking and communicating with the patient are so important to me,” says Alcock. “The patient and their family know best so we need to make an empowering environment for them.”

Patients and families are the reason for CoACT. This large-scale provincial program has brought the Patient First Strategy to life. It is also this year’s team winner for the AHS President’s Excellence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Patient and Family Centred Care.

Personal connections to the health system, such as Alcock’s story of her mother, have helped put a face to the transformation CoACT is making to healthcare.

“It was a combination of heartfelt personal and professional stories that inspired us,” says Dr. Ann Colbourne, CoACT lead and Senior Medical Director for Culture, Transformation and Innovation. “It was the knowledge that care could be better in combination with an absolute belief that we must make the best use of our talent and system resources.”

CoACT has worked tirelessly to bring Collaborative Care to 161 in-patient care units across Alberta. The program creates a culture where care providers work together to provide timely information to patients and families, perform regular check-ins, and help patients and families understand the roles of care providers.

Dr. Colbourne and the CoACT team have re-imagined how care can be provided — and their efforts now impact half of all patients admitted to AHS.

“If we start with the question, ‘what matters to you?,’ we enter our care conversations differently,” adds Dr. Colbourne. “This approach builds strength and personal empowerment in health.… It keeps our focus in the right place.”

CoACT has conducted nearly 6,000 surveys of patients and families who have experienced Collaborative Care firsthand. The results show that these patients and families are more involved in their care and build relationships their providers. They leave the unit feeling confident, and having the right information, about their condition and needs.

Dr. Colbourne says the shift to a culture of collaborative care is part of a global trend in healthcare. However, AHS is unique in its integrative approach of patient centeredness, in shifting how a care team works together, and the processes involved to improve effectiveness and quality.

Alcock shares her mother’s story on a regular basis.

“Simple things like comfort rounds, patient bedside whiteboards, or bedside shift reports would have created an atmosphere of empowerment and independence for my mother.”

CoACT team members say they’re thrilled to receive a President’s Excellence Award — and Dr. Colbourne is excited about what’s next.

“We have a model that works.… We must continue to evolve our approach and evaluate impact: for Albertans, our staff and our system,” she says. “We must strive to be the best that we can be, with and for each other — coactive.”

The President’s Excellence Awards recognize and celebrate the dedication and accomplishments of AHS staff, physicians and teams. Award recipients demonstrate exceptional collaboration, innovation and a commitment to quality improvement and patient care.