Fort Langley family doctor Andre van Wyk has always tried to follow a proactive care model in his practice, but he recently made some innovations that have helped him change the doctor-patient relationship into a true partnership.

“I recognize that people are now better informed about health and their own situations, so my role has become different,” says van Wyk. “Especially for people with chronic diseases, it’s important that I do more than just offer information.”

Van Wyk has had tremendous success in empowering his patients to take responsibility for their health, thanks to an innovative program that provides a structured method for patients to self-manage many aspects of their own health care and build their confidence.

He is now following the protocols set out in the Patient Self-management learning module offered by the Practice Support Program (PSP). A joint initiative of Doctors of BC and the BC Ministry of Health, the PSP provides training and support for physicians and their MOAs designed to improve clinical and practice management and to support enhanced delivery of patient care.

Led by other family doctors, known as “physician practice leaders,” the Patient Self-management module enables physicians and their staff to help patients take a bigger role in managing their own health. Physicians learn how to help patients identify behaviours they are prepared to change and how to help them develop a plan for changing those behaviours, one step at a time.

“As a family doctor, I need to not only help my patients set realistic goals for their health but also provide them with support and education for solving daily problems, and then follow up with them regularly,” says van Wyk.

Richard Edge has been a patient of Dr van Wyk’s for nearly a decade and has found the Patient Self-management program very helpful in treating his type 2 diabetes.

“I got to a point where my diabetes wasn’t as controlled as it should be—I was overweight, had hypertension, high cholesterol, and other issues,” says Edge. “But with Dr van Wyk’s help, I started taking a more active, self-managed role in my health care. I lost 60 pounds, took on an exercise program, and even went off all my medications at one point. Now I commute to and from work by bike all the time.”

Edge says he’s also gotten additional benefits from tackling his own health issues.

“I’ve lowered my blood pressure and cholesterol, I have more energy, and I’m better able to cope with the stresses I have.”

Dr van Wyk provided Edge with regular medical tests and a lot of support as well.

“I could e-mail him!” Edge exclaims. “He’s been very active to help find other help I needed—referrals to specialists, online resources. He’s great at providing me with information and taking the time to listen to me as well.”

Van Wyk likes the module’s emphasis on setting realistic goals. “We don’t always need to look for traditional medical goals,” he says. “Instead, we need to understand the patient's goals, look at what’s meaningful for a person.

“This required a paradigm shift for me as a doctor, because that’s not always how we’re trained,” he adds. “I truly believe that self-management is the keystone to patient attachment.”

Edge echoes this sentiment. “I’ve learned that I can’t just rely on the medical system,” he says. “This made it more of a team effort, and I was part of the team. We were all working together to see that I live as healthy a life as possible.”

The PSP began as an initiative of the General Practice Services Committee (GPSC) – a joint committee of Doctors of BC and the BC Ministry of Health (the ministry) – and now receives additional direction, support, and funding from the Shared Care Committee and the Specialist Services Committee (also partnerships between Doctors of BC and the ministry).