Interview and podcast with Siân Slade
Picture this: you have a diagnosis you didn’t expect, and suddenly find yourself a vulnerable patient in the healthcare system. You feel like this journey is a fragmented series of interactions, and you are not understood by the health care professionals you are seeing?
Unfortunately, this scenario is not uncommon.
LiverWELL Board member Siân Slade has an aim to streamline the silos and address this fragmentation, enabling patients and carers to better navigate healthcare journeys. Siân’s policy and advocacy project on this topic, #NavigatingHealth, is co-travelling an international doctoral thesis.
An early career in pharmacy gave Siân a grounding in patient care, counselling and making sure people felt they could ask questions and feel supported. Her formative years in industry were in the field of HIV/AIDS, where patients receiving new antiretroviral therapy made a dramatic shift from dying to living. This paradigm shift in care had a profound impact on Siân, and has informed her career ever since. Patient activism, shared care and acceleration of technologies has shaped this environment. But how to achieve these changes, scaled at a systems level?
The CSIRO Future of Health Report outlines that the health systems in Australia will shift from treating patient illness in the short term, to extending life and improving quality of life over a lifetime. Shared care and collaboration seem to be the key; where the skills, knowledge and experience of the patient, carer and health professionals share the joint decision-making for an individual’s care.
“There’s an onus on all of us to figure out how to do this better and this is not a new problem, it’s something that all countries are grappling with so there’s a big opportunity to learn from others and share learnings”, says Sian. “The ultimate goal is to make sure people get the right care, at the right time, at the right cost, every time.”
Siân feels that some of the biggest barriers that people face in accessing and navigating the healthcare system include culture and language, financial costs, and differences – or perceived differences – in power between patients and practitioners. The importance of kindness, and a willingness to understand a patient’s vulnerability and their situation are essential.
In addition to her PhD, Siân is developing the #NavigatingHealth Project nationally and internationally, and looking to hold a forum in Canberra next March. This collaborative project focuses on addressing patient needs and moving us all to a person-centred focus in health. These outcomes are vital if we are to support aging populations, close life expectancy gaps and address the rise of chronic diseases such as fatty liver disease.
Listen to the podcast