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We are all patients

There’s often an internalized stigma when we consider ourselves patients. But the reality is, we’re all patients!

From birth and beyond, we rely on our clinics, emergency departments, public health systems, and the experts. Our environments have been shaped over time to increase safety, wellness, and to satisfy our constitutional right to health and a healthy environment. We move through our lives knowing our health system is our safety net.

Once we recognize we’re all patients — and the importance of healthcare and public health systems across the life course — the more we want camaraderie. We are capable of improving our health literacy and to be partners in our care.

As with anything we introduce in our lives, we must learn to foster healthy relationships with it.

I was born and raised in a rural and remote community on Haida Gwaii, British Columbia: the unceded territory of the Haida Nation. I went through my youth without a cellphone, my mother calling local shops and restaurants’ landlines to locate me.

Now, I walk through our trails with a device in my pocket that allows me to receive my lab results and review them anywhere, anytime. My device gives me confidence and connection to the hardest-to-reach experts in the province and has the potential to change how I view my health and wellness, as well as the health system as a whole.

In Canada, e-Health is helping us to recognize that yes, we are all patients, and yes, we can be partners in our health!

It’s taking the family doctor in the clinic and welcoming them into our homes. This virtual portal into the health system is adding clarity to our Google searches. It’s saving us thousands of dollars in medical travel. It’s improving provider and systems efficiencies, so we can reap the reward.

It’s clearer than ever in the pandemic that access to affordable high-speed Internet is a basic human right, especially for us folks up north.

As investments in digital infrastructure in our health systems ramp up, there’s growing opportunity to reach our hardest-to-reach patients. The investments into our local infrastructure in the last decade, which came from advocacy of a local non-profit and investment from the federal government, allows me to participate in this e-Health conference today.

We are all patients: There is nothing for us without us.

This year, e-Health conference organizers have gone the extra mile to bring patients into the decision making from start to finish. As patient advisors, we deliberate with experts and industry advisors upstream in the planning phases and connect with partners downstream at conference meet-ups. We are heard every step of the way.

Once we accept that we are all patients, our collective voice grows. Our group of patient advisors at e-Health 2021 recognizes that we are advocates and experts in our own way. e-Health in Canada is our bridge for the future, and this is a conference that aims to truly showcase both sides of it.

Alissa MacMullin is a patient partner at e-Health 2021. Photo credit: Linda Szeto

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