In the fall of 2021, Dr. Kelly Smith joined Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) as their inaugural Michael Garron Chair in Patient Oriented Research. The move was strategic for many reasons: as the hospital’s first research chair, she will pave the way for expanded research opportunities; she will support a move to spread the hospital’s quality improvement (QI) work into the community; and her arrival means the beginning of a formal relationship with the Centre for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety (CQuIPS).
“Partnering with CQuIPS was an important part of my deliberations in taking on this new role,” Dr. Smith said. “I was looking for collaborators who already spoke my language of quality and safety – people who were interested in really transforming healthcare.”
Dr. Jeff Powis, medical director, Quality, Operational Excellence, Research & Innovation at MGH, advocated for the partnership with CQuIPS.
“I have seen the benefit of working with CQuIPS for my own research journey,” he said. “I found that single-centre QI work was challenging to disseminate outside of my own organization but, working with CQuIPS, I found partners who were interested in tackling similar problems and working on issues collaboratively. This led to much higher quality QI work that had a better chance of publication. Our partnership with CQuIPS is important because we want to make sure Kelly had access to the tools and connections that allow will her research to be successful and amplified.”
A couple months into her new role, Dr. Smith is already embedded in the work of the Centre – she’s supporting work with LOFT Community Services, an organization that supports people living with mental and physical health issues, addiction and those who are experiencing homelessness.
“LOFT and Michael Garron Hospital are collaborating on a new initiative called The Path Home, which meets a big need the hospital has identified – how to improve the pathway for patients with mental health issues to get across the continuum of care,” she said. “I’m working with CQuIPS research team members to look at how we can measure the impact of this program work from the patient perspective as well as the health system perspective. We’re in the brainstorming phase but it’s exciting and I think, if it can be scaled, it could be very, very impactful.”
Dr. Smith’s work doesn’t just consider the patient perspective – she has a lot of experience in making sure patients have a valued seat at the table.
“My role is to elevate and amplify the patient voice specifically within quality improvement and patient safety activities in a way that makes sustainable change for the health system,” she said. “We need to look at pain points in the health system, where the patient voice can be leveraged to overcome some of those pain points and look at how we can co-create a future of healthcare together.”
That includes beyond the walls of the hospital. MGH is the hub for East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP), the Ontario Health Team (OHT) serving East Toronto. Smith’s work will also focus on engaging the OHT in CQuIPS-led training to build QI capacity throughout the community.
“Healthcare professionals are the most adaptive group of individuals in the world: over, under, around and through, they are figuring out how to make it work for the patient and for themselves,” Dr. Smith said. “What’s exciting about the potential of engaging our external health partners in CQuIPS training is creating a sense of community around QI and helping do more QI on scale.”
Dr. Powis agrees.
“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been able to demonstrate the real value of partnership and integrated healthcare working with our East Toronto Health Partners,” he said. “We’ve shown that our success is based on the strength of our partnerships. If we all have the same vision of consistently improving, if we speak the same language and we all have the same set of tools to get there, it just makes our collaborative work so much easier – it’s part of what I consider vital to be an integrated healthcare system. We’re excited to work with CQuIPS and expand QI capacity across ETHP.”
Dr. Brian Wong, CQuIPS director, said the partnership between CQuIPS and Michael Garron is an important step in the Centre’s vision to grow the QI community and focus on health system resilience.
“We consistently see that when organizations work together, the impact is far greater than each of us working alone,” he said. “Dr. Smith is already a connector herself – between Michael Garron, the East Toronto Health Partners and CQuIPS – and I have no doubt that list will continue to grow. She is a world-class researcher in this area and we are fortunate to have her here in Toronto.”