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11/2/2016 7:00 AM

Johanna Trimble receives 2016 Patient Safety Volunteer Champion Award

Congratulations to 2016 Volunteer Patient Safety Champion, Johanna Trimble from the Vancouver Coastal Health Community Engagement Advisory Network. Johanna has mobilized her passion and commitment to affect change within the healthcare system and raise awareness around overmedication of seniors.

Like many, Johanna Trimble had a challenging experience with a family member in the healthcare system and sought to affect change for the better, not just for her family, but for many others. It was 2010 when Johanna began to share the compelling story about her mother-in-law, Fervid Trimble. The galvanizing patient narrative, Is Your Mom on Drugs, drew interest from many working in and connected to healthcare and since then Johanna has effectively used that interest to lead initiatives for change that have resulted in greater awareness and new tools. With unwavering passion, Johanna has sought out various mechanisms for having her voice heard and to engage others in addressing the dangers of overmedication of older adults.

Johanna recently joined a new organization, the Canadian Deprescribing Network (CaDeN), to raise that awareness about the dangers of overprescribing with health professionals, as well as the general public. She is also a public member in the development of MedStopper, a new deprescribing resource that helps prescribers and patients alike to make decisions around medication use. When the list of medications is entered on the web-based tool, the database ranks them from the least efficacious and safe to the ones that are safer and better, and details what to consider when monitoring, pausing, or stopping them.

"Medstopper.com is a reputable tool developed for healthcare professionals. The general public can also use it to do a preliminary medication review themselves to find out which medications are most necessary and indicate the ones that may be causing problems," says Johanna. "The list can then be printed out to review with your doctor. Most people have a misconception about drug safety. Just because a drug has been passed by a drug regulator does not mean they are without harms. All drugs have side effects; you may or may not experience them. When you are older and taking many medications, there is a much higher likelihood that you will have side effects or interactions between them."

Johanna's willingness to share her message broadly has created an interest and opportunities to share her story and advocate for change at various conferences and symposia the world over. She recently attended an international conference in Barcelona where a full day was devoted to issues about overmedication with the elderly. "I was so amazed and impressed that there are so many different countries now seeing this as a real problem that urgently needs to be addressed. I am doing everything that I can to raise awareness and do something practical about it," says Johanna.

During the Conference, Johanna reconnected with a Swedish doctor who has developed a manual outlining drug classes and everything you need to know about getting people off those drugs safely. It is given to every prescriber in Sweden and used throughout Scandinavia. It has recently been translated into German. She has been inspired to make it a personal goal to try to get a consortium together to have an English translation done. "The Swedish manual has all the information and it would be silly to reinvent the wheel," says Johanna. "The information is detailed and the translation has to be done carefully and properly. I am reaching out to colleagues I have met in Australia, the UK and across Canada to see if there is some way between us we can find funding to publish an English version."

Johanna is a volunteer member of the Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) Community Engagement Advisory Network and the BC Patient Voices Network. She is a valued member of Patients for Patient Safety Canada and has obtained the Patient Safety Champion designation from the World Health Organization. She sits on a number of provincial and national committees working to solve the problems of Polypharmacy in the elderly, including the BC Polypharmacy Risk Reduction Initiative Steering Committee. She was recently appointed as a Council Member with the BC Patient Safety and Quality Council.

Johanna is an honorary lecturer in Community Geriatrics in the Family Practice Department, Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. "I want to influence first-year medical students who are coming into the healthcare system and raise awareness about involving the family when treating the elderly," says Johanna.

"Patients and families need to be much more involved in designing healthcare, from the early planning stages, all the way through to implementation and evaluation," says Johanna. "What happens quite often is that patients are called in as an after-thought. The patient's perspective is so different from those who work in the healthcare system. We have to work together; that is the only way that things will improve."

Belinda Boyd, Leader Community Engagement at Vancouver Coastal Health nominated Johanna for the Patient Safety Champion Award. "When Johanna began to share her story, she did so in a direct and honest way that has inspired others to join her in delivering the message that overmedication is harmful, dangerous and needs to be curtailed," says Belinda. "Johanna continually inspires others to bring their voice to healthcare planning and improvement and is a strong advocate for patient safety."

HealthCareCAN and the Canadian Patient Safety Institute have partnered to present the Patient Safety Champion Awards to recognize champions of patient safety - volunteer patient or family members and teams or organizations who demonstrate exemplary leadership and collaboration to champion change and achieve safer care through patient/family engagement. The Volunteer Champion Award salutes patient/family volunteers who, through commendable dedication and service, contribute to a project or initiative that result in identifiable improvement in patient safety outcomes.