After retirement, Moira McMillan and her husband found their healthcare needs were increasing, many of which involved travel for care. The necessity for travel for health care was impacting Moira’s experience and outcomes. Moira realized the issue of having to travel for care, impacted families across Northern BC and because of this, she became a patient partner on the Northern Patient Travel Improvement Committee (NPTIC). The Committee, led by Dr. Denise Jaworksy, researches the impact travel has on patients and their care, with the intent of informing future practice for the Northern Health Authority.
Moira recently presented her perspectives on being a part of the NPTIC at the 2020 Putting Patients First Conference. Putting Patients First is our annual conference designed to encourage learning and collaboration between patients interested in patient-oriented research, health researchers, health care providers and health-system decision makers. At this conference, patients are encouraged to participate and present. Being very involved in her committee’s research topic and wishing to promote the committee, Moira pursued this opportunity to share her perspectives on being part of the NPTIC and the results gained so far.
In preparation for the conference, Moira learned that the expectations for presenting were the same for patient partners as for health researchers, and were, in her view, unnecessary barriers for input from an average person. Firstly, an abstract had to be submitted and judged. The abstract had very tight parameters and was something Moira hadn’t done before. The abstract was submitted on behalf of the NPTIC entitled: “How Travel for Medical Care Impacts Patients Living in Northwest BC: A Patient Partner Perspective.” Once the abstract was accepted, Moira undertook the preparation of the poster presentation, based on a required template outline. This meant downloading and using PowerPoint, a program she hadn’t used before. Undaunted and resourceful, Moira devoted many hours and sought support to learn PowerPoint and to create her first research poster. Difficulties sending and sharing large files with other committee members meant she had to do a lot of the work on her own. Luckily, Moira was able to reach out to her daughter-in-law, who had a research background. Finally, Moira also became adept with Zoom in order to seamlessly present her poster during the virtual conference.
Moira’s difficulties highlight the need to minimize the obstacles for patient partners to share their experiences in patient oriented research. “I really enjoyed being part of the conference focused on improving care, but I struggled to follow the standards that were put in place for patients to get involved,” says Moira. Enhanced patient partner participation in conferences, including presentations, will require exploring more accessible ways for patient partners’ experiences to be presented.