CHANGING THE WAY CANADIANS DO HEALTH CARE
The Prices were just like many other Canadian families: confident in our nation’s health system. That all changed when they lost their son and brother.
Greg Price was a mechanical engineer, private pilot, brother, son and an active member of his rural Acme, Alberta, community. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2012 and due, in part, to delays in testing and treatment, his illness, which is considered to be one of the most treatable cancers when caught early, escalated in just a few short weeks. Three days after undergoing surgery, Greg died in his home from a blood clot.
Greg’s story is not unique. Reeling from their loss, Greg’s sister, Teri, and father, David, were left with many unanswered questions. As they looked into what had happened to Greg, they uncovered some systemic flaws.
“Like a lot of Canadians, we didn't think that much about the health system and didn’t really have any interaction with it prior to Greg's death,” says Teri. “You hear that we have one of the best health care systems in the world and we sort of expected it to be there when we needed it. But Greg fell through a number of cracks, and we learned that this was a very normal experience for many people to have.”
NAVIGATING A CHALLENGING SYSTEM
About a year before his passing, Greg complained to his family about having back problems and began the process of moving through the health system with a series of appointments to understand what was causing his pain. He was eventually diagnosed with testicular cancer.
Greg’s family learned of his challenges only six days before he died.
“It was a big shock to us that he passed that quickly,” says David. “And it left a lot of questions for us to answer and to try to understand how this happened to somebody that was careful with his nutrition and always physically active.”
Prior to being diagnosed, Greg was very proactive about his health. His family found out later that he was making regular visits to the drugstore to monitor his blood pressure. Even after receiving his cancer diagnosis, Greg continued to thoroughly investigate his potential treatment paths.
“Greg was somebody that always believed people would do the best they could,” says David. “And so, in the early part of his journey, I think he was hoping things were going to work out and assuming maybe that they were.”
Later tests revealed a much greater sense of urgency than Greg had been led to believe. The engineer in him became more engaged in exploring solutions, even questioning the type of surgery he was scheduled to undergo. But due to a lack of time and other oversights, the proper options of care weren’t made available to him.
“This is something that I'll take to my grave,” says David. “Maybe if a different choice had been made, the outcome would have been different as well.”
WHEN HOPE TAKES FLIGHT
To cope with losing Greg, the Price family turned to the Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) — an organization that monitors the provincial health system. An investigation by HQCA found that there was a lack of prioritization and communication between Greg and his health care providers throughout the process of finding out what was really wrong. The Prices have been committed to doing what they can to prevent this from happening again and to changing the system that they believe, failed Greg.
As a family, they launched Greg’s Wings Projects — a not-for-profit organization that is focused on improving patient outcomes by driving collaboration and innovation within the health system.
“We needed to know what had gone wrong and find ways to improve, or fix, the system in a way that would reduce the chances of that ever happening to anybody else,” says David.
“Our goal is to help continue to spread Greg’s positive mindset, constant pursuit for learning and the positive impact that he wanted to create for the world and for generations to come with Greg's Wings Projects,” adds Teri.
Greg’s Wings Projects has grown into a digital community consisting of educational platforms such as The Medical Education Initiative and Health Arrows, as well as the Co-Pilot Collective, which shares information, experiences and ideas about improving the health system.
SHINING A LIGHT ON WHAT TRULY MATTERS
The Price family also produced a short film about Greg’s health care journey; Falling Through The Cracks: Greg’s Story was created to raise awareness about the lack of a patient-centric health system, the need for true patient partnership and the importance of good teamwork within the health care system.
“Greg’s experience was very true to commonly occurring events happening in the health system and the treatment that comes from it,” says Teri. “The more people we have engaged and feeling comfortable and safe about having these conversations, the quicker we'll actually move forward.”
The film has been screened across Canada with hopes of inspiring others to push for change and to advocate for better treatment. It has also catalyzed the creation of a larger movement, and sparked some inspiring and much-needed conversations.
POWERING FORWARD WITH ACCESS 2022
David and Teri hope to leverage the relationship between Greg’s Wings Projects and ACCESS 2022 to shift public awareness and engagement to where it really needs to be when it comes to Canada’s health system.
“The public’s perception about accessing their health information and doing that using digital tools has changed quite a bit but there's still a large percentage of people who don't realize what’s accessible and what’s not,” says Teri. “They don't understand that the health records at their family doctor’s office aren’t universally available to other treatment players.”
She adds that a top priority for Greg’s Wings Projects has been to guarantee access to the information people need to make informed and safe decisions.
“We believe that joining the ACCESS 2022 movement and the other partnering organizations will help us accomplish a shared vision of having accessible information for everyone. We want to be able to contribute to the conversation and to spread the good things that are happening within the ACCESS 2022 movement.”