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Health sector should take cue from banks in serving patients: report

TORONTO - A new report says the health sector should take a page from the banking industry when it comes to serving patients.

It says people can bank online, access their personal information from anywhere and get customized services — and so should patients.

The report says patients are already using digital tools to manage their health and should have a bigger say in how they're treated.

The International Centre for Health Innovation at Western University's Ivey Business School says personalizing the health system will improve care, outcomes and save money.

Chairwoman Anne Snowdon says the health care system needs to move into the 21st century and start tailoring to the needs of the individual.

Sometimes what's considered to be a success story for a doctor isn't necessarily a success for the patient.

Surgery may seem to be the right treatment for an elderly woman with an arthritic knee, but not if her daily routine revolves around attending mass at church, she said.

"Everything goes beautifully, she can now walk to church, she doesn't have any pain, great range of motion," Snowdon said. "She goes to 7 a.m. mass, she can no longer kneel."

"So for that little 84-year-old lady, it was not a success at all because what was central to her and most valuable to her was being able to kneel to pray," Snowdon added.

Stacy Murphy, whose son Kayne was born three months premature, said she and her husband felt shut out by health-care providers during their ordeal.

They were left out of the loop and weren't made aware of just how bad things were for their son, Murphy said. The team caring for her son wouldn't include them in their meetings.

She was asked to leave her son's side for routine procedures like IV changes and more serious ones like spinal taps, she said.

Not all parents can keep calm and stay out of the way of medical staff, Murphy said. But she knew she could.

"So when it over, I could be there to cuddle him and support him through it," she said. If he didn't make it, at least she have been there when he died.

The couple also had to fight against doctors' recommendations to not resuscitate her son, she said.

Finally one of the doctors advised the medical team to listen to them, she said.

After months in hospital, they told her that Kayne, who had chronic lung disease, would likely die in hospital. Murphy and her husband took their son home and took over his care, learning to use the ventilator and do the procedures he needed to survive.

Kayne is now five years old, she said.

Stories like Murphy's show that there needs to be a significant shift in the health sector, Snowdon said.

"Start with the person," she said. "What's important to them, what are their goals, how to we help them get to that goals and mobilize the knowledge we have to help them make really good decisions."

Patients often walk into the doctor's office armed with questions they got on the Internet — what's jokingly referred to as "Dr. Google," she said. Some doctors are posting signs on their doors telling patients they will only take three questions.

"Even an ATM at a bank will ask you, would you like another transaction," she said.

And this is an "empowered" group of consumers who want information and have very specific goals, she said.

"They're not patients, because 'patients' really suggests that physicians are in charge," Snowdon said. "I think those days are fading quickly behind us."

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