Why involve consumers?

‘It keeps you honest. Having patients involved from the beginning—not paying lip-service—but getting consumers involved right at the development of ideas…We’ve done surveys with the Cancer Network of cancer patients to see what issues there are in their cancer care when we’ve been developing new cancer centres. And that’s been extremely helpful. Sometimes some unexpected things are more important to them, like parking.’

—Christobel Saunders, Deputy Head, University of Western Australia School of Surgery

There is considerable evidence that consumer involvement in health care improves the quality of health information and the health outcomes for people using the health service. Consumer engagement has also been shown to improve quality and safety and increase both consumer and community support.

If these aren’t enough reasons, partnering with consumers is now an essential requirement of accreditation and reporting at both state and national levels.

What can consumers offer me?

People affected by cancer view the health service through a different lens. Their feedback and suggestions are often surprising and can lead to major improvements in quality and safety.

I don’t have time to do this!

Some health professionals worry that working with consumers will be time consuming. In fact, most find the following to be true:

  • Talking with patients and families about what is important to them can be built into many of your routine episodes of care.
  • Improvements that come from consumer involvement make your health service more efficient and effective.
  • Many aspects of consumer involvement are fairly self-sustaining once initiated.
  • There are significant resources (such as this Toolkit) which can help you to begin or continue the process of involving consumers.
  • Your organisation may be able to provide administrative and logistical support which should relieve you of much of the burden of time.

 Case study-is it worth the time…

The rewards are great, not only in the way I do my business because I actually find it a value-add for me….So if we actually invest up-front with empowerment of patients, they’re much better able to look after themselves. And I think that’s the way forward. And it doesn’t just have to fall on the shoulders of any one health professional; this is very much a joint approach and a joint commitment of the whole of the health team involved with the patient.

—Tony Hobbs, General Practitioner, Cootamundra Medical Centre