You Spoke, We Listened: 2017–2018 Priorities Survey Results

Every year, NL SUPPORT undertakes a priority-setting process in order to make sure that the work we do addresses healthcare needs that are important to residents of Newfoundland and Labrador. These priorities are most prominently reflected in the Patient-Oriented Research Grants competition, but can be used to direct work and allocate resources across the TPMI.

In our first year of priority setting, they were set entirely by our Steering Committee, and mostly represented the priorities of the Committee’s RHA representatives. In the second year of the initiative, NL SUPPORT undertook a touring series of Town Hall events across the island — in St. John’s, Ferryland, Grand Falls-Windsor, Deer Lake, Corner Brook and Channel-Port Aux Basques — to engage with members of the public and determine what their priorities were for improving healthcare in Newfoundland and Labrador. For example, those priorities became the themes for this year’s POR Grants Competition.

Although the information from these face-to-face meetings was invaluable, continuing Town Hall events around the province is not the most cost effective way to do things.

In the 2016–2017 NL SUPPORT decided to pursue a more efficient method of figuring out provincial priorites. After consulting with local representatives of the PRIIME SPOR Primary Healthcare Network, we decided that a province-wide survey would be the most effective method of conducting a “check-up” of the region’s priorities.

It would be:

  • Cost effective: a paper based survey would be relatively cheap to produce (by leveraging Memorial University’s Printing and Mail Services, and Canada Post’s Unaddressed Neighbourhood Mail service), particularly in comparison to the cost of accommodation and travel.
  • Wide-reaching: NL SUPPORT could target towns throughout the province, particularly in rural regions along the South Coast, in Notre Dame Bay, and in Labrador. These areas are harder to reach by car and expensive to fly into.
  • Low risk: the cost of production and distribution turned out to be very low, as did the cost of returning responses; the greatest risk involved appeared to be in terms of wasted postage, which was minimal when compared to all the risk involved in sending teams of staff members on the road.

NL SUPPORT developed a very brief survey that asked respondents to prioritize ten possible areas of concern, based on the Department of Health and Community Services’ own extensive public engagement efforts (published in 2015 as “What We Heard”).

We took these themes:

  • Coordination/ Continuity of Care
  • Awareness of Services
  • Wait Times and Hours of Access
  • Prevention and Promotion
  • Compensation Models
  • Access to Allied Health Professionals
  • Proximity to Services
  • Community Services and Supports
  • Access to Nurse Practitioners
  • Mental Health and Addictions

And created easy to understand scenarios, from which respondents were asked to rank their top four.

I have to see a different family doctor every time or my doctor or nurse doesn’t seem to know my medical history.
I don’t know which programs and services are available to me or when and how I can use them or my doctor or nurse doesn’t know which services they can send me to.
I have to wait too long for medical care, and I have trouble getting medical care when I need it.
Not enough is done to help people make healthy choices before they get sick.
I don’t have enough access to other health professionals such as nurses, pharmacists, and physiotherapists.
I have to travel too far for health services.
There are not enough community services and supports to help me after I leave the hospital or to make sure I can stay in my home for longer, instead of going to a care home.
There is no nurse practitioner in my community.
Not enough is being done to help people with mental health problems and addictions.

The questionnaires were distributed by:

  • Mailing 1000 hard copies across the province with self-addressed stamped return envelopes; a $100 prize draw was also included as an incentive to fill out the survey.
  • Developing a web-based version in Survey Monkey and distributing the link via social media and email, leveraging contacts in RHAs, patient groups and other networks.

Results

Hard copies were distributed via Canada Post on June 1. At the same time, the web-based version went live and NL SUPPORT staff — KT Lead Kate Hogan and Patient Engagement Coordinator Eva Vat — distributed the link widely through a number of networks, including Central and Western RHAs, the Western Regional Wellness Coalitions, the NL SUPPORT Patient Advisory Council, and various other community groups. It was also heavily promoted on social media and through the NL SUPPORT newsletter.

Data collection began the following week as hard copies began to arrive at the NL SUPPORT office. Samantha Scurrey, a Masters’ co-op student in the Applied Psychological Science program, was responsible for data collection and analysis.

The web survey was closed at the end of June, and a total of 285 responses collected during that month were included in our analysis, though hard copies are still being received at NL SUPPORT.

Samantha’s analysis follows:

Participant Characteristics

The majority of respondents indicated living in Eastern Newfoundland (69.1%), followed by Western (12.3%), Central (10.2%), and Labrador-Grenfell (4.9%). In regards to gender, 78.6% of the individuals identified as female, 16.8% as male, and 1.8% preferred not to say. Age of respondents ranged from 15–85+, with the majority of individuals falling between the ages of 37–64.

Ranking of Most Important Health Care Problems:

Need for mental health services, reduced wait times, and preventative health are the most prominent problems in our health care system as identified by respondents. Exploration of the “other” option yielded no reoccurring themes, thus, no new problem categories were created.

Conclusions

Going into 2017–2018, the priority themes for NL SUPPORT, as determined by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will be:

  1. Mental Health and Addictions (75.8%)
  2. Wait Times (64.9%)
  3. Preventive Care (60.4%)
  4. Community Supports and Services AND Awareness of Services (both 36.1%)

All of our thanks and appreciation to everybody who participated. Your voice has been heard, and your opinions will drive the future of health care in Newfoundland and Labrador.