When a country is developing a five-year national health plan, patients, families and communities ideally need to be at the centre of planning and implementation. But how do you go about making sure this actually happens?
The Patients for Patient Safety (PFPS) group within the Service Delivery and Safety Department at WHO Headquarters, in collaboration with the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office, undertook a joint mission to Oman during 23-27 October with health professionals, policy makers and administrators. This was to raise awareness on the importance of patient, family and community empowerment and engagement as a part of the efforts to support the implementation of the WHO Framework on integrated people-centred health services, and to contribute to a roadmap to help guide the five-year strategic national plan on patient safety and quality improvement.
The team visited two public hospitals in Muscat and ran six focus groups with healthcare professionals from a variety of specialities, along with administrators and policy makers. The focus groups helped to learn about the current awareness and practices for patient and community engagement and to draw out the key challenges from these experiences.
The team facilitated a two-day workshop to raise awareness and build capacity for engagement from health professionals, and found the participants to be very motivated. The team also conducted field visits to rural primary health care centres, and Oman’s ‘Healthy Villages’ projects. The conversations and experiences exchanged during the mission were fruitful, and included a reflection of the challenges and also of great progress that has been made in improving patient experience in Oman.
There is a critical need to encourage health systems to embrace the dual principles of people-centred and integrated care. For a health system to be re-oriented around this concept, it must engage with end users to ensure that care is responsive to the needs of people and communities. Evidence shows that health services that are integrated and coordinated towards the needs of people can increase access to quality health services, which is critical in supporting advancements towards universal health coverage and the health-related Sustainable Development Goals.