The CONNECT Collaborator Series is an interview series where we host conversations with healthcare professionals and partners to encourage deeper collaboration in the healthcare industry.
Carolyn Pritchard: Welcome to the CONNECT Collaborator Interview Series where we host 10-minute conversations with healthcare professionals and partners with the goal of engaging deeper collaboration in the healthcare industry. Today’s guest, Dr. Famida Jiwa, is the President and CEO of Osteoporosis Canada and has been with the organization since 2006. In 2020, Dr. Jiwa was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Osteoporosis Foundation, representing North America for a term of four years. She also serves as the Chair of the Patient Society Subcommittee of the Committee of National Societies of the International Osteoporosis Foundation. Famida, welcome and thanks for being here today.
Famida Jiwa: Thank you for having me.
Carolyn Pritchard: Let’s get started. Why are stakeholder collaborations and healthcare providers and industry so important for patients?
Famida Jiwa: If you think about patient care, a patient has interaction with their healthcare provider, has interaction with their pharmacists, has an interaction perhaps with an allied health provider, has an interaction with other individuals who have input into their care. It’s almost like the hub and spoke model where the patient is at the center and all of the other services they access are around them. So as a provider, whether you are a healthcare provider, or similar to Osteoporosis Canada, if you are a health charity, it’s really important to gain an understanding about the different perspectives that the patient interacts with. I think that gaining that understanding and securing a collaboration across those networks is really key to then more fulsomely supporting a patient. For example, you don’t know what you don’t know. So as a health charity, we think we know what we need to provide for people living with osteoporosis, but it’s really the patient voice that is the critical part of informing our work and informing how we work. Having said that resources differ across sectors. The health charity sector may be very strong in certain areas in terms of program delivery, whereas other stakeholders may be stronger in other areas. The one that comes to mind most clearly is the marketing and communication outreach. Healthcare charities, while we have that component, it may not be as robust as other sectors.
A collaboration across sectors, any stakeholder—whether it be industry, telecommunications, or allied health—it’s critical to gain expertise from different sectors, so that you can in the most efficient and highest performing way, support the patient. They say it takes a village to raise a child. It takes a village to support—in our case—Canadians living with osteoporosis, and we don’t expect ourselves to do it alone. Nor should a patient, I don’t think. I think there’s really key collaboration across sectors. That’s really where the wealth of information and most appropriate support comes from.
Carolyn Pritchard: Agreed. We’re interested in the Canadian Osteoporosis Patient Network (COPN), can you share really how you’re working to share knowledge and resources relevant to patients?
Famida Jiwa: The Canadian Osteoporosis Patient Network is the patient arm of Osteoporosis Canada. It has been with the organization since its inception and it is comprised of people living with osteoporosis primarily. It supports people living with osteoporosis and it supports families and caregivers who are supporting people living with osteoporosis. I would say, over the past decade, in particular, I’ve seen a tremendous increase in membership to COPN. COPN is a short form of The Canadian Osteoporosis Patient Network. I’ve seen an increase in engagement across this network. It’s essentially patients supporting patients.
I think one of the biggest things that I’m the most proud of at Osteoporosis Canada, is that we have really made germane to our function, patient input in all aspects of what we do. Just last October—October 2023—we released our clinical practice guidelines. A patient has sat on each of our committees in the development of those guidelines. A patient is also sitting on each of our committees in the translation of those guidelines. So how do we take that scientific manuscript and translate it into real-world information for people living with osteoporosis? We would never do something like that without COPN as our partner because going back to my previous comment, it’s really the patient who understands what they need, what’s lacking, how to communicate, and which way and how often to send messages out.
The other piece that I want to highlight because I’m very proud of it as well, is when we were developing our clinical practice guidelines, we actually sought patient input before the entire process even again. We had an open call to patients living with osteoporosis, who spoke to us about what the gaps are, whether it be the diagnosis, treatment or management of their disease. We really tailored the manuscript around those gaps and we ensured that we had patient input on each piece. I could go on for a long time about this because I’m passionate about it, but patient input is critical and they’re really an integral part of the organization.
Carolyn Pritchard: Can you think of an example of a way that you’ve been able to empower patients directly as an organization?
Famida Jiwa: Yes, for sure. Echoing back to my previous comment, having patients involved in the functioning of an organization. There are two benefits. Number 1 is that the organization has a benefit in terms of actually tailoring our material to where the information is needed. Number 2 is a patient benefit because they’re able to canvas the voice of their network and bring it forward and ensure that those needs are met.
We also ensure constant communication between the organization and our patient network. During my time at Osteoporosis Canada, I’ve really seen the nature of input from our patients grow. I think that also lends an opportunity for empowerment as well because our patients are telling us how we should do what we do. They are also involved in our strategic planning process. It’s critical if you’re going to involve the patient voice, to actually utilize the patient voice and have a two-way communication. Engagement is one thing, but valuable, tangible, cogent engagement is a completely different thing. I think as an organization, we’ve really been able to bridge that gap and the increase in our network and the increase in uptake really reflects the value of that.
Carolyn Pritchard: That’s excellent. That leads us to the question of what do you think is the future of healthcare?
Famida Jiwa: As an organization whose demographic is typically 50 and over, this is something that is on our minds all the time. As the Canadian demographic ages, and that cohort of people grows, the needs of that group are going to be critical. The economic burden of that will be significant in the next 10-15 years. I think similar to your first question about collaboration, I really think it’s important in the healthcare system to have an integrated approach. People tend to go to a certain provider for a certain piece of information, which is fine. But I think if those providers are not networking and collaborating with each other, it’s going to be very hard to sustain the current healthcare system that we have. I think looking at efficiencies of scale and increasing the scope of practice, for certain practitioners that are limited at the moment are ways to help bridge that gap. I think it’s going to be a huge challenge moving forward.
If you look at AI and its impact on healthcare, a lot of people fear AI, but I think there may be many efficiencies to be found, once some of the little tweaks that need to be figured out are figured out. There could be more dynamic, efficient ways of tackling healthcare as we move forward. In many ways, technology is enabling us, so it will be an exciting time to watch and it will certainly be a challenge, simply because of the demographic, the increased costs and the decreased health human resources that we have. I really think we need to leverage the technologies and the collaborations that exist and can exist.
Carolyn Pritchard: Thank you for those insights. Lastly, where can people get in touch with you?
Famida Jiwa: I am always available. I can be contacted through my email through the organization. So if you go through to the website, www.osteoporosis.ca, you will see a “Contact Us” button at the bottom. If you click on that, you can direct your questions to me and they come to me daily, and I respond to them daily. I’m always happy to hear from people and to form any networks that we can to support each other because I think that’s going to be critical moving forward.
Carolyn Pritchard: Thank you very much for your time today. We really appreciate you participating in this collaborative interview series and we look forward to connecting in the future.
Follow Osteoporosis Canada on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to learn more about COPN (The Canadian Osteoporosis Patient Network) and how they support patients living with osteoporosis.