Story by Bretton Davie | Photo courtesy of Karon Argue
HIGH RIVER — As a children’s book author and illustrator, Karon Argue understands the power of stories. As a patient, she knows the importance of having a family doctor and team who understand her story.
Argue has faced life-threatening health issues due to complications from Type 1 diabetes and a H. pylori infection. Her family doctor of 18 years, Dr. John Hagens, has been by her side as she battled through sight loss as well as kidney and pancreas transplants.
“He’s in the loop with everything that’s going on, and that has been a key factor in my care. I always have that person who is looking out,” says Argue, who adds that Dr. Hagens sees all her test results and works closely with both her family and her network of specialists, physiotherapists, lab technicians and other healthcare professionals to quarterback her care.
Sunday, May 19 is World Family Doctor Day and Argue’s story shows the value of having an ongoing, trusting relationship with a family doctor or nurse practitioner who knows your story. This continuous relationship is called continuity of care.
For Argue, having a family doctor who knows what matters to her has made a huge impact not only on her health, but on her life as well. There were times when Argue, a mother of three, found herself in hospital and Dr. Hagens arranged for her to be in a room where she could watch her kids wave to her from the nearby school playground.
“I didn’t think I was going to get to see my kids finish elementary or junior high,” says Argue. “He knew where I was mentally, and he knew that my kids were very important.”
Dr. Hagens says: “As family doctors, when we’re working with our colleagues, we can share the relational information we know about our patient as well as the medical information, and that provides an important patient context. This way we can advocate for them not just as patients, but as people.”
Now, thanks to her own determination — coupled with the support of her family and the dedication of everyone on her healthcare team — Argue is watching her children flourish as adults and is, herself, also thriving.
“After losing my sight, I finally wrote and illustrated my own children’s book. Who do you think shares it with their new interns or families at home? My doctor and my healthcare team,” Argue says in a digital story she recently produced.
Having continuity with a primary healthcare provider brings many benefits, including a lower risk of chronic disease and early death. Plus, a family doctor/nurse practitioner and team can help connect patients with additional care they may need.
“When we make an impact on a patient’s life, it is not something that we, as physicians, do alone,” adds Dr. Hagens who, in addition to his clinical role, serves as associate medical director for the Primary Health Care Integration Network.
“Continuity runs in multiple directions. It’s between family doctors and specialists. It’s between doctors and patients. And it also runs within the multidisciplinary team in the medical home.”
Everyone in the system who works with patients can help Albertans experience the benefits of continuity of care. Here’s how:
Learn more about the benefits of continuity at the Primary Health Care Resource Centre.