Canadian provinces need to adopt a patient charter of rights

April 23, 2012

Canadian provinces should adopt a patient charter of rights with independent enforcement as part of the move to patient-centred care, argues an analysis article in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

A properly designed patient charter of rights can help patients resolve concerns and complaints easily and cost-effectively, through an independent ombudsman or commissioner. An effective patient charter contains clearly articulated patient rights — many of which are already provided in law but scattered in different places — such as patients' rights to access their health records, to privacy and to informed consent.

Many countries such as New Zealand, Norway, Finland, England, Israel have patient charters. Quebec is the only jurisdiction in Canada with a charter. Alberta has recently enacted one, but it lacks the critical feature of independent enforcement.

Health professionals may have concerns that patient charters will increase lawsuits or disciplinary actions, but evidence shows that "patient charters with dedicated complaints processes enable matters to be resolved at an early stage by informal means, averting the need for litigation or formal disciplinary proceedings," write Colleen Flood and Kathryn May, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. In New Zealand, for example, formal disciplinary actions against providers have plummeted because a patient commissioner mediates patient complaints.

An independent health ombudsman can help spur overall improvement in the system by issuing recommendations or reports on system problems. Overseas experience suggests that despite having no formal powers to implement change such recommendations can nonetheless be a powerful force for change.

"A patient charter of rights should achieve greater clarity and awareness of the nature and extent of patients' rights; if well-designed, it should also help drive improvements in the quality and timeliness of care, improve the overall accountability of members of the health care system and reduce costly litigation," the authors conclude. "However, experience shows that it is easy for a patient charter to be a toothless tiger — that is, a mechanism to merely talk about improving the patient experience and reforming the health care system."

Explore further: Patient-centered care starts with education

More information: Paper online: www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.111050

Related Stories

Patient-centered care starts with education

October 31, 2011
The main challenge to providing patient-centred health care is education, as many patients do know how to access the health care system, states an editorial in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Families report adverse events in hospitalized children not tracked by health-care providers

November 21, 2011
Families of hospitalized children can provide valuable information about adverse events relating to their children's care that complements information documented by health care professionals, states a study published in CMAJ ...

Quality health care delivery key election issue, says CMAJ

April 6, 2011
Delivering quality health care rather than health care sustainability is a key issue for Canada's federal election, and Canadians need a vision from federal leaders to radically transform our health care system, states an ...

Recommended for you

Expert: Be concerned about how apps collect, share health data

October 20, 2017
As of 2016 there were more than 165,000 health and wellness apps available though the Apple App Store alone. According to Rice University medical media expert Kirsten Ostherr, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates ...

More teens than ever aren't getting enough sleep

October 19, 2017
If you're a young person who can't seem to get enough sleep, you're not alone: A new study led by San Diego State University Professor of Psychology Jean Twenge finds that adolescents today are sleeping fewer hours per night ...

Across Asia, liver cancer is linked to herbal remedies: study

October 18, 2017
Researchers have uncovered widespread evidence of a link between traditional Chinese herbal remedies and liver cancer across Asia, a study said Wednesday.

Eating better throughout adult years improves physical fitness in old age, suggests study

October 18, 2017
People who have a healthier diet throughout their adult lives are more likely to be stronger and fitter in older age than those who don't, according to a new study led by the University of Southampton.

Global calcium consumption appears low, especially in Asia

October 18, 2017
Daily calcium intake among adults appears to vary quite widely around the world in distinct regional patterns, according to a new systematic review of research data ahead of World Osteoporosis Day on Friday, Oct. 20.

New study: Nearly half of US medical care comes from emergency rooms

October 17, 2017
Nearly half of all US medical care is delivered by emergency departments, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM). And in recent years, the percentage of care delivered ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.