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October 28, 2020

What is being done to make health care better for Saskatchewan patients?

By Elizabeth Ireland, Saskatoon StarPhoenix and Regina Leader-Post

Qual­ity im­prove­ment is an im­por­tant part of our prov­ince’s health care sys­tem, but what hap­pens to the process when a pan­demic is taking place?

Tracey Sherin is chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Saskatchewan Health Qual­ity Coun­cil (HQC). Since 2002, the Saskatoon-based or­ga­ni­za­tion’s man­date has been to ac­cel­er­ate im­prove­ment in the qual­ity of health care in Saskatchewan. With its own board of di­rec­tors, HQC op­er­ates in­de­pen­dently from the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment and em­ploys ap­prox­i­mately 45 staff.

In ad­di­tion to her CEO role, Sherin serves as co-chair of the over­sight com­mit­tee for the Saskatchewan Cen­tre for Pa­tient Ori­ented Re­search (SC­POR). Although the term may be un­fa­mil­iar to the av­er­age Cana­dian, pa­tient-ori­ented re­search is the con­cept that health re­search done through part­ner­ing with ac­tual pa­tients and their fam­i­lies leads to bet­ter out­comes. HQC and SC­POR help to fa­cil­i­tate con­nec­tions be­tween pa­tients, fam­i­lies and other stake­hold­ers for spe­cific re­search op­por­tu­ni­ties in the prov­ince.

Sherin was pre­vi­ously HQC’S di­rec­tor of data anal­y­sis and re­search part­ner­ships, where she led a team of re­searchers and an­a­lysts gen­er­at­ing ev­i­dence to en­able health sys­tem im­prove­ments. Sherin earned her BSC in mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy and im­munol­ogy from the Univer­sity of Saskatchewan and her MSC in health care and epi­demi­ol­ogy from the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia.

HQC has been hosting its staff meetings and huddles virtually since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Launched in early 2017, the Clin­i­cal Qual­ity Im­prove­ment Pro­gram (CQIP) is one of HQC’S flag­ship pro­grams. With COVID-19, the 10-month pro­gram is busi­ness as usual (vir­tu­ally of course) and the fifth CQIP co­hort is in the re­cruit­ment phase right now.

CQIP is de­signed to build the skills and ca­pac­ity nec­es­sary for suc­cess­ful health care im­prove­ment work, within the sys­tem it­self. CQIP is a col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Saskatchewan Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion and the pro­vin­cial Min­istry of Health. Par­tic­i­pants are mostly physi­cians with some other clin­i­cians, such as phar­ma­cists, par­tic­i­pat­ing as well.

“We be­lieve that the Clin­i­cal Qual­ity Im­prove­ment Pro­gram helps clin­i­cians de­velop the skills they need to lead im­prove­ment in our health sys­tem. Eval­u­a­tions of the pro­gram in­di­cate that par­tic­i­pants feel that they are well e­quipped to lead qual­ity im­prove­ment ini­tia­tives, and many go on to lead new projects. We are also see­ing that these im­prove­ment tools are pre­par­ing par­tic­i­pants to adapt to the changes that we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing as part of the COVID-19 pan­demic. We have seen 62 clin­i­cians grad­u­ate the pro­gram so far, with an­other 20 com­plet­ing the pro­gram as part of our fourth co­hort. We are re­cruit­ing for Co­hort Five, which will be of­fered fully on­line so that par­tic­i­pants can con­tinue to learn these valu­able skills dur­ing the pan­demic,” says Sherin.

Rel­a­tively new on the scene are HQC’S Best­prac­tice Panel Re­ports. These panel re­ports give Saskatchewan’s fam­ily physi­cians rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion about their pa­tient pop­u­la­tion—in­clud­ing de­mo­graph­ics, emer­gency room use, chronic disease and pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tion rates.

“So far, about 20 per cent of Saskatchewan’s fam­ily physi­cians have re­quested a Best­prac­tice Panel Re­port to bet­ter un­der­stand the pop­u­la­tions that they serve and to iden­tify ar­eas for im­prove­ment. The feed­back we have re­ceived is that they find the re­ports use­ful for un­der­stand­ing their prac­tice and iden­ti­fy­ing changes they want to make. Once they have signed up, physi­cians will re­ceive an up­date to their re­port once a year,” says Sherin.

As the pan­demic en­ters its eighth month, what im­pact has COVID-19 had upon HQC’S ef­forts? “On a prac­ti­cal level, HQC has been able to re­act quickly and build ca­pac­ity. We have tran­si­tioned many of our pro­gram of­fer­ings to vir­tual meth­ods. As a team, we have adapted to work­ing re­motely when pos­si­ble and have mod­i­fied how we use our of­fice space. We have also im­ple­mented safety pro­ce­dures, such as wear­ing masks in com­mon ar­eas,” says Sherin.

Saskatchewan pa­tients, and their fam­ily mem­bers, can be­come in­volved in the pa­tient-ori­ented re­search process as ad­vis­ers or re­search part­ners by go­ing to the Pa­tient & Re­searcher Con­nec­tion Site at qi.hqc.sk.ca/sc­por-con­nec­tion­site.

More in­for­ma­tion on HQC and its pro­grams can be found at www.hqc.sk.ca.

This article was originally published in the Health Care Providers Week special edition in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and the Regina Leader-Post. View the full edition here: https://issuu.com/postmediasaskatchewan/docs/sas_health_care_providers_week_10.28.2020