April 1, 2020

Innovation is Key

By provincial Patient Council Co-Chair, Lisa Ridgway

As a patient partner, I wonder what's going to happen to patient-oriented research (POR) now, but I don’t have a crystal ball. I know to rely on the experts – people like Drs. Bonnie Henry and Theresa Tam for the best advice. Still, there's no POR playbook or precedent for COVID-19, and so much has changed.
Medical research and all our resources must focus on how to stop transmission and help those impacted by the virus, but the value of patient experience and lived experience won’t fade in the face of COVID-19. Teamwork won’t change – if anything, this crisis enhances our bonds on research projects. Timelines may stretch out, but in the present moment, patient partners, health care providers, academics, and health care decision-makers – the four-corner stakeholders of POR - need to think collectively.

How can we help one another? Thinking like this gives me hope. How can we innovate and be agile and adapt as the disease pushes into our lives? Can we use our collective power as patient partners to help when our conventional POR teams are made up of clinicians and decision-makers who are 100% focussed on efforts to prepare and deal with COVID-19?

I think innovation is the answer. Just like the rest of the health system, we must respond to innovate our pre-COVID-19 approach to POR in this new era. We need to optimize our traditional model and consider what patient-oriented innovation can do.

Let's continue to work with our BC SUPPORT Unit colleagues and expand the possibilities and harness the power of the patient voice and perspective in the COVID-19 response. For example, we can stay involved by testing new digital apps designed for the public, which are coming out of the tech sector at record speed. As patient partners, we are still “open for business”.

Let's draw strength from what is happening in hospitals and care settings across the country. Let's stay focussed on the things we can do, like physical distancing and supporting vulnerable members of our community. Let's listen to the facts from medical experts, listen to our colleagues who co-lead POR projects, and most of all, listen to ourselves.  Remember the strength of mind it takes to support and enable researchers, to continue to contribute meaningfully to research teams, and to innovation that will see us contain the virus.

I don’t have a crystal ball, but I do have a lot of hope in this unprecedented time. My hope comes from people and my people are patient partners.