Following a successful pilot project, the BC Public Advisory Network (BC-PAN) is now an ongoing resource for health regulatory colleges interested in seeking public input on important issues related to health regulation.
Modelled on Ontario’s Citizens Advisory Group, the BC-PAN provides opportunities for meaningful public engagement in health care regulation, explains Kelly Newton, Policy and Engagement Lead in Communications and Public Affairs for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC (CPSBC).
“The colleges are there to protect public safety, and the public voice is so important,” she says. “We can engage the network to help inform our processes, policies, patient resources, the language we use, and any communications that we direct at the public.”
The CPSBC is one of seven initial health regulatory colleges that partnered to develop the BC-PAN, which has now grown to 11 college partners.
The BC-PAN grew out of discussions among BC Health Regulators (BCHR) interested in finding another opportunity to engage and involve the public in health regulatory work.
BCHR Chair Cynthia Johansen says that the network will provide valuable public input to initiatives of importance to BC’s health regulatory colleges.
“This is an example of colleges working together to address a challenge that we all grapple with – ensuring that we have meaningful public engagement to inform our work as health regulators. Going forward, the network will be a valuable resource that we can use to improve our practices and help the public understand the role of regulatory colleges in ensuring BC’s health care professionals provide safe and ethical care for their patients.”
Completed in February, the one-year pilot project focused initially on recruiting public advisors to form the group and working with them to develop terms of reference.
The public advisors are members of the public who have varying levels of experience with the health care system. One of the goals in forming the BC-PAN was to create a group with as much diversity as possible, and the current members represent different demographics in the population, such as gender, age, ethnicity, geographic location, and have varying level of experience interacting with the health care system.
Meetings held during the pilot project also provided valuable insight on a variety of topics including what the public needs to know about health regulators; the complaints’ process; and what is helpful for patients when navigating college websites.
“Health care regulation is a tough topic to understand – many members of the public and patients may not be fully aware of what health regulators can or cannot do, and I think that learning more (about the colleges) was very insightful for the members of this advisory network,” Newton says.
The BC-PAN will have its next meeting in early fall. Items for discussion are now under review, with a focus on topics that are timely, relevant to multiple colleges, and where public input can make a tangible difference.
The network now has 13 public advisors and the goal is to increase that to 15. Advisors cannot be a current or previous registrant of a health regulatory college. For more information and a link to the application form, visit the BC-PAN website.