New guidelines about sharing patient information will make it easier for some families that support adults with mental illness, a senior health official in Halifax says.Also see:
Capital Health is adopting a sliding scale of information sharing, where patients can decide how much to share and with whom. It's a move away from the all-or-nothing approach.
"This is different from before. Now we're looking to share some information with some people and be specific about it," said Dr. Ian Slayter [pictured], clinical director for general psychiatric services.
Slayter said patients may refuse to divulge any health information, but health-care providers will encourage them to share some details with those who support them.
He said studies have shown that communicating with family members results in a better outcome for the patient.
"We're saying that providers need to sit down with the patient and say, 'You're receiving some support from this person and they could be more effective if they understood a little something about your illness, what it's all about, what your treatment is and how they can help.'"
For example, Slayter said, if a relative or friend knows that a patient is having suicidal thoughts, then maybe they can provide more support to help them.
He said it's also useful for families to know about a certain medication so they can help the patient get it or administer it.
Joanne Zinck's youngest daughter was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 20. She says one of her biggest hurdles with mental-health care providers has been around privacy.
"We were depended on to help her to get well, but yet we weren't able to get the information that we needed to be able to support her," said Zinck.
Slayter said the guidelines were drafted by a group of patients, their families and the specialists who treat them. He said they also consulted with the Meriden program, a family-oriented mental-health service in England.
The district health authority approved the guidelines last week. Some staff are working with the new rules already, but more will be trained this fall.
CDHA Mental Health Program - Information Sharing Guidelines (PDF)
Collaboration in the Triangle of Care (PDF)