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Engaging Patients and Communities in Co-design

Using upstream engagement and ongoing connection to improve health system outcomes.

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Putting patients, families, and caregivers at the centre of the health system is intrinsic to Ontario Health Teams.


Integrated care isn’t only achieved by changing the way care is delivered and organized – it’s also influenced by patient and community voices in project design. Our team has committed to upstream patient and community engagement and co-design to ensure that our work is truly reflective of the needs of our community.

Happy Family
Caregiver ID

Project: Caregivers - we're essential.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented circumstances on many fronts.

In hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes, hospices, and across community health partners, early restrictions to visitation and the exclusion of caregivers had numerous unintended consequences. It is recognized that caregivers play a vital role as members of the care team. Healthcare providers were challenged with how they could effectively integrate caregivers into the circle of care while maintaining a safe environment for both patients and staff.

Caregivers are integral to the patient journey. They provide critical and often ongoing personal, social, psychological, and physical support, assistance, and care, without pay, for people in need of support due to frailty, illness, degenerative disease, physical/cognitive/mental disability, or end of life circumstances. Caregiver presence provides support for patient physical care and mental well-being.

From COVID-19 challenges grew the Caregiver ID project, which aims to recognize caregivers in a formalized capacity as essential partners in care. This project, launching at Sault Area Hospital in conjunction with community health partners, will identify, prioritize, and equip caregivers with the tools needed to continue providing care to their loved ones throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It involves updating essential caregiver policies, formalizing their roles, providing caregivers with a visual identification card, and providing resources

on topics such as infection prevention and control.


The roll out of the project is being done in a manner that standardizes an approach to the inclusion and recognition of caregivers across the AOHT. If someone is identified by a participating organization as an essential caregiver, they will maintain that role as they seamlessly transition across the continuum of care throughout the community. 

Identifying the caregiver is an important step in establishing and strengthening a relationship that can yield better patient care and outcomes and provide the team with a better understanding of the patient, their medical condition, and beyond.

Project: Engaging Upstream with the Citizens' Reference Panel

As part of our commitment to meaningfully engage citizens in system design, our team convened the Citizens’ Reference Panel on Integrated Care to hear from a representative group of citizens that broadly reflect the diversity found within Algoma. Working together, this diverse group of randomly-selected citizens will provide the AOHT with recommendations that will shape the future of health in their region through a process known as “deliberative engagement”.

Deliberative engagement differs from traditional methods by engaging a smaller group of representatives in learning related to an issue, and then asking them to develop recommendations and solutions for the organization to implement. By incorporating this engagement into our work, we will both improve project design and outcomes while identifying the best ways to form ongoing connection and accountability to our community representatives.

Group discussion.
Citizens' Reference Panel


Deliberative Public Engagement


Visually Recognizing Caregivers: The Caregiver Identification (ID) initiative

The Change Foundation

Patient Declaration of Values

Ontario Ministry of Health

Patient Engagement Resource Hub

Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement

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