Izabela Grape underlines the importance of utilising patient engagement
Ms Izabela Grape, Chairwoman of Breast Cancer Society Amazona, spoke at the Plenary Session on Leadership for the Future of Healthcare at the EHMA 2021 Annual Conference, held digitally from 15-17 September 2021. Grape, who is a two-time breast cancer survivor, opened the session by sharing her personal story and her perspective on patient engagement in healthcare.
The conference, hosted by the REBECCA partner – European Health Management Association, brought together over 400 representatives of the healthcare community to discuss solutions to managing services in the post-COVID future. The session on Leadership for the Future of Healthcare explored ways to improve management and leadership in healthcare and discussed how healthcare leaders can participate in preparing for the health systems of the future. Dr Melitta Jakab (Head of Office, WHO European Centre for Primary Health Care) brought forward the perspective of the primary care sector, while Dr Björn Zoëga (CEO, Karolinska University Hospital) and Ms Annamaria Müller (President, Board of Directors of HFR Friborg Hospital) presented the perspectives of hospitals. Dr Marius Ungureanu (Lecturer and Director of Education, Department of Public Health, Babeș-Bolyai University; Chief of Staff, Ministry of Health of Romania) presented the perspective of local authorities.
Ms Grape opened the session by sharing the patient perspective. The first time she was diagnosed, she battled the disease with the support of family and friends. The second time, however, her support network was made up of women who too were breast cancer patients and survivors, and healthcare professionals.
She asserted that the constant access to information today puts new demands on the healthcare profession. Healthcare professionals are expected to be up-to-date on the latest research and advancements in medicine, but at the same time, they should not undermine the value of honest and open communication with patients. She emphasised that healthcare professionals should view patients as individuals with needs and expectations and that their perspectives should be taken into account when deciding on the treatment.
Ms Grape also reflected on some of the challenges patients see in healthcare, primarily the need of keeping up with today’s demands, the lack of a structured approach in the use of new medicines, and overwhelming administration. She asserted that while digitalisation often comes up as an easy answer to some of these challenges, that is not always the case. Patients still need to meet healthcare professionals face-to-face and digital tools such as Zoom should be used to complement face-to-face interaction when possible.
She underlined the role that patients and patient organisations should play in decision-making processes. She asserted that while patient organisations and healthcare professionals might have disagreements, it is essential that they show a willingness to cooperate. She referenced the work of Breast Cancer Society Amazona, a patient organisation supporting breast cancer patients and their families while spreading knowledge about breast cancer and the importance of an early diagnosis. Amazona has been working closely with healthcare professionals in Stockholm for over 40 years.
Ms Grape concluded her speech by emphasising the need for patient organisations and healthcare professionals to find ways to work together, share experiences and expertise, and build dialogue. Patients must be included in the network in a systematic way, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, as that is the first step towards building patient-centred care.