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Amy Ma, Choosing Wisely Canada’s Patient and Public Advisor

Amy Ma, one of the Choosing Wisely Canada patient and public advisors, started on her journey in patient engagement after one of her children was hospitalized. The youngest of her three children, who is now 10, had two surgeries before the age of 2. During a follow up appointment with her son, Amy learned about the existed of the Family Advisory Forum of the Montreal Children’s Hospital.  Within a year’s time, she had joined working groups related to accreditation and improving patient care in the emergency department. Amy says “in pediatric health, parents naturally assume the role of advocating for their kids, while the staff works with parents to ensure family-centred care”, so her participation in patient advisory councils was a natural extension of her role as a parent and caregiver.

Amy’s leadership as a patient advisor personifies the idea to ‘think nationally and act locally’ by engaging in national and local advocacy to improve the quality of the health care system.  She commented how “health care tends to be costly, and benefits few people”, but notes that Canadian patients and the public have an expectation that the health care system, experts and resources will be there for us when we really need it.

Because of this, Amy says that “it is in everyone’s interest to make the message of health care resource stewardship accessible so everyone can reap the benefit of our health care system.”

Amy sees her role as the Choosing Wisely Canada Patient and Public advisor as helping to accomplish these aims. She is involved in advising various aspects of the campaign on strategy including implementation strategies, reviewing publicly-facing tools and materials and planning the upcoming National Meeting in Montreal, Quebec in 2018.

In particular, she is interested in telling stories about the harms of overuse to influence the Canadian public to better understand that more is not always better, and change the mindset away from “why not order every test and treatment under the sun…what’s the harm?” Amy thinks that the time is ripe now to share the message of Choosing Wisely and communicate more broadly with the public that sometimes you get better health with less interventions. Amy believes people are very receptive to playing an active role in their health and wellness and understanding the harms of unnecessary tests and treatments can help inform this.

She cites the example of unnecessary antibiotics, saying that every parent can relate to wanting to give their child an antibiotic for an ear infection or cold to relieve painful symptoms. Giving unnecessary antibiotics can increase resistance, meaning that they won’t be there for our kids when they really need them, and this can really influence parent’s choices and decision-making.

Amy continues to be actively engaged with the McGill University Health Centre, and Montreal Children’s Hospital as a patient and family advisor. She sees synergies between these various roles and the benefit of a growing network of colleagues in patient engagement.

One area that Amy is passionate about is making sure that our society’s most vulnerable and marginalized individuals can receive the care that they need. She sees this advocacy as not conflicting with Choosing Wisely, but rather very aligned. She says that by reducing redundant and unnecessary care, there can be more capacity to deliver care and services who need it most.

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