Recently, I had the honour of watching the Vancouver screening of Falling Through the Cracks: Greg’s Story. The film is a short documentary on Greg Price’s journey though the health care system during the investigation and diagnosis of testicular cancer, highlighting some critical events that led to Greg’s tragic passing. The raw nature and vulnerability of the story is complemented by incredible artistic direction, creating a true and authentic health care experience for all viewers.
Greg’s Story is not unlike many other stories I have heard or experienced in which people fall through the cracks of the health care system. Unfortunately, Greg’s Story is not unique to the fact that teamwork, communication and collaboration between patients, family members and health care providers remains fragmented at times. The film focuses on some events that continue to occur in health care environments globally, which cause stress, confusion and sometimes even devastation to all those involved. However, the familiarity, relatability and genuine empathy that Greg’s Story awakens in its audience is its truest and most powerful gift.
The premise of Greg’s Story is not that the health care system led to his death, but that the system didn’t necessarily prevent it or help either. The story invites everyone to sit together in a space of vulnerability and exposure, and helps patients and health care partners establish a collective voice. Greg’s family’s experience generates many emotions, particularly when some of the inherent downfalls of our complex health care system contribute to negative or fatal outcomes. Despite this, Greg’s Army (those honouring Greg by sharing his story to initiate change) is committed to using Greg’s story to create discussion, dialogue and debate about opportunities to improve the health care system.
Following each film screening, Greg’s father and sister, along with panel members representing different Canadian health care organizations, facilitate an open and honest forum with the audience. We participated in an engaging and passionate conversation about ways to improve health care, starting with empowering patients so that they truly become a part of the system. My mental models were challenged that night, most notably by the realization that making the patient and their family the centre or focus of the system isn’t enough – our work to improve the care we provide and receive needs to be built with patients just as much a part of the system as everyone else. The design and delivery of health care can’t simply work to serve the patient; rather, each patient must be empowered to design the delivery of their own care.
Greg’s Army continues to honour Greg’s legacy with the film and has already begun their mission to make the movie into a movement. The family wants to share the film with as many people and organizations as possible, and to use it as a platform to motivate change. Greg’s Story is already being incorporated into medicine curriculum at the University of Calgary during residency training, with learning objectives related to teamwork and communication. They have just begun the journey of creating partnerships and extending the use of the video to other sectors, and I think everyone, whether they’re involved in health care or not, would benefit from seeing the film and having a discussion around it.
The willingness, courage, advocacy and pursuit demonstrated by Greg’s family in their efforts to prevent others from having to experience similar cracks in the system should inspire each health care professional to do the same. We must be willing to admit what has gone wrong or is going wrong, have the courage to talk about it and learn from it, advocate for putting better designs and processes in place, and commit to an uncompromising pursuit of health care improvement.