Maxime Lê understands the patient perspective on having surgery, including the stresses. He has undergone four surgical procedures in recent years – three to treat a chronic ear condition and another to repair a badly broken wrist.
Lê is now using his experiences to help The Ottawa Hospital ensure the patient’s voice is incorporated into research projects, including one he finds particularly exciting – the Operating Room (OR) Black Box project. He volunteered to be a patient advisor in 2017, while recovering from his wrist surgery at The Ottawa Hospital.
“I was looking for ways to give back to the hospital that would align with my lived experience as a surgical patient and my passion for health research,” he says. (Lê is finishing a master’s degree in health communication.)
The OR Black Box is a technology platform that captures audio, video, patient vital signs and other information from the operating room environment. The data collected will help researchers study whether improving teamwork and communication among operating room staff can make surgery safer for patients.
Lê and another patient advisor, Laurie Proulx, had input into the project “from A to Z,” says Lê. One key issue was how best and when patients were to be informed that their surgery was scheduled to take place in an OR with the Black Box.
The patient voice has unprecedented importance in all the research we do.— Dean Fergusson senior scientist with The Ottawa Hospital
“We advised against telling patients the day of their surgery because they’re already anxious, and this news might intensify feelings of not being in control,” Lê says. “Instead, patients are informed when they have their pre-op appointment, and, of course, they can opt out at any point.”
“Engaging patients in research projects is so important. It is embedded in our research culture and strongly supported by the highest levels of leadership at the hospital,” says Dean Fergusson, a senior scientist with The Ottawa Hospital and the lead on its patient-engagement in research strategy.
“We are striving to show leadership in this field by developing unique strategies to increase patient engagement in research,” says Dr. Fergusson, who is also a professor at the University of Ottawa.
One of these strategies, which is just starting, is to incorporate a call for volunteers into patients’ electronic health records.
“When patients log into their health record, they can check off a box to indicate they are interested in being engaged in the research process,” he says. “We will be following up with them to offer them a variety of roles – from advising on specific projects to sitting on committees, to considering overall research priorities.
“We also provide training to both researchers and patients to get the most positive impact from this partnership. The patient voice has unprecedented importance in all the research we do.”
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.