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Patient Advisor: Digital Health Tools Help Canadians Partner for Better Outcomes

Posted on October 17 by Garry Laxdal

In 2015, I was diagnosed with rectal cancer and immediately began both radiation and chemotherapy treatments followed by major surgery (abdominoperineal resection). This was followed by four additional months of chemotherapy. Prior to my cancer, I was a technology business owner and very active physically, golfing on average 100 times a year, and an avid hunter. The great news is I’m now two years post-surgery and all tests and scans since treatment are negative and the prognosis is good. While I’m a little disappointed that I’ve only golfed 97 times this year, I’m gearing up for another successful hunting season.

Joking aside, the staff at Alberta Health Services (AHS) provided me with outstanding care, compassion and dignity. As part of my surgical care, I was introduced to ERAS (Enhanced Recovery After Surgery). By giving me tools online, I was able to better prepare myself for surgery. My belief then, and now, was that, “the better shape I’m in before surgery, the faster my recovery will be after surgery.” This was 100 per cent correct!

Since then, I’ve become a Patient Advisor with AHS and the Surgery Strategic Clinical Network as well as Co-Chair of the Patient Engagement Reference Group. I’m also very fortunate to be a Patient Advisor with Canada Health Infoway, working closely with their team promoting digital health. I believe in advocating for patients, as men especially are quiet about their cancer and often have no one to talk to about their experiences. Often, they don’t know how to navigate our complex health care systems. As a former high tech business owner, I know firsthand how using digital tools will help us as Canadians partner with our health care providers for better outcomes. All too often, we hear only about the negative aspects of our health care system, yet there are many, many more good news stories, which we need to hear about. My story is one of them.

Working closely with Canada Health Infoway on the upcoming Infoway Partnership Conference has been fantastic. Infoway truly believes in patient engagement and has really kept this in mind to increase awareness and drive support for digital health. Collectively, with other patient advisors and Infoway, we have collaboratively designed the conference around patient engagement. By working strategically together, we can enhance the health care process for all Canadians using digital health tools.

My role in the upcoming conference is twofold. I’m a patient moderator in the first leadership session, Digital Health Landscape: Change Agent Perspectives. This will be a very exciting and high energy discussion with a physician, nursing administrator and a successful pharmacy owner. There will be lively discussions about how digital health is playing an increasingly important role in our society. My second role has been as a patient advisor with Infoway, working on the strategy, design and content for the conference. We have also been working collaboratively on the patient scholarship for additional patients, caregivers and family members to attend the conference.

I’m thrilled to be part of the conference and look forward to meeting people and sharing ideas on how we can benefit from promoting and using digital health tools and solutions to enhance our health care systems. Please come and introduce yourself to me at the conference. I look forward to meeting and speaking to you.

Register today for the Infoway Partnership Conference

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Alan LeungGarry Laxdal, Patient Advisor

Garry Laxdal successfully battled rectal cancer two years ago. Since then, he became very active in patient advocacy. Garry is on the Patient Advisory Committee for the 2017 Infoway Partnership Conference. Further to this, he is currently a Patient Advisor with the Surgical Strategic Clinical Network with Alberta Health Services and the Co-Chair of the Patient Engagement Reference Group within Alberta Health Services.

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