Improving Communication In Healthcare Delivery | Nancy Michaels

There's so much so many things that people can do that make a huge difference in the way that you as a patient can try to help yourself mentally and emotionally and I was always grateful for that. That's why I say so often to people, it's not only what you say, it's how you say it..

Nancy Michaels from shares her experience as a patient 13 years ago.

Nancy’s Story

It was 13 years ago in May that I became suddenly very sick I knew something was really wrong with me. I just wasn't exactly sure what. I had been to the doctor several times and I finally was coming off getting home from a speaking engagement. I was flying back and I realized that I wasn't even able to walk off the plane. I was that sick and I called a friend of mine and she came over to drive me to what was my local ER because I was afraid actually to go to a Boston ER. I was petrified that I wouldn't be seen that night and my local ER had seen me several times that previous two weeks. When I arrived at the hospital they saw me immediately and I think it was very early the next morning, I was taken by ambulance to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to their ICU department and it was within a few days of that that I realized that I was in complete organ failure and I would need a liver transplant.

I remember finding out, I think I arrived there Sunday morning and by Wednesday I was in a medicated coma and they almost took me off the list to receive the transplant because they thought I wouldn't make it through the surgery. I was so sick, fortunately they decided to go ahead with the surgery. I believe that was that doing, that  my current liver doctor really making a case for allowing me to get that organ because of my age and because of my relative health prior to being sick. I was fortunate enough to have it, it was a non-compatible blood type organ from a young woman who had died in a car accident the night before my transplant. She had a non-compatible blood type organ so I didn’t have to go through plasmapheresis to change or allow my body to be able to accept her organ. During the surgery though I died twice, the second time was more than two minutes and they actually thought that I might not be the same cognitively because I had been without oxygen for so long.

Fortunately though I did wake up on July 17th at 7:13 a.m. and realized I had a memory of what had happened and I was just trying to really put the pieces together. What I realized when I woke up or very shortly after was that I wasn't able to speak because I was trach and that was one of the hardest parts about being in the ICU wanting to ask so many questions and not being able to really have a voice to be able to ask those questions I had. They were weaning me off that respirator for about a month before I could actually speak to someone and then I was transferred to rehab, for six weeks and rehab is no fun. I ended up being readmitted back to Beth Israel after the six weeks of rehab and the three months in ICU. My diagnosis then was a failure to thrive diagnosis because I just wasn't getting better and I didn't realize until later that a failure to thrive diagnosis is really an end-of-life kind of diagnosis or diagnosis you'd give to a preemie.

I was not doing well, I was there for another six weeks, so all together I was hospitalized for about six months and then finally after being discharged from the transplant unit which is where I ended up being. I returned another 11 times for anywhere from 2 to 11 nights for various complications. I had aspergillus in my lungs, I had two rejection episodes. I had high potassium, I had a lot of complications, I had spots in my lungs that they couldn't figure out what was happening. It was a complete year really of being hospitalized.

An ICU Patient & Motherhood

In the meantime, my kids were very young, I hadn't seen them in months. My youngest daughter was so afraid, she was only six at the time that I didn't see her for almost a year because she was just so afraid and part of her fear was that I had brain surgery while I was in a coma, so a part of my head was shaved. Eventually I did wear a wig and it was the only way that she would really see me, is if I had the wig on even when I was sleeping. I also had to have the feeding tube removed because that was another thing that was very upsetting to her.

So, I did have the surgery to have it put in my stomach but it was just a very trying time and I'm very grateful for the medical care that I did get and there were many things that went really well, some things that probably could have been improved upon but ultimately my outcome was a good one and I'm very grateful for that. I think it took me about ten years to really process what had happened but for the past three years I have been working and speaking to health care professionals about how to be better and more effectively communicators with patients and family members. I am a big believer that what we think and feel really can affect how we can heal ourselves.

Patient Speak

The subtitle is Seven Communication Practices to Improve Patient and Family Experience. I really wrote it based on my own experience not only as a patient but also hearing my family speak about the two months when I was in a coma, the things that had gone on and again things that were really positive and things that probably could be improved upon. There are some great examples of nurses that did that really went above and beyond the call of duty, I just spoke recently to the ICU staff at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where I was treated and told them about a story about one of my nurse’s Frank, who was the first person I actually met the day that I entered ICU. I remember he commented on my manicure and pedicure and asked what it was called and I told him it was a french manicure and pedicure. He said well you obviously take good care of yourself, so if you take good care of yourself, I am going to take great care of you and I really believed him. He was really such an important person to me while I was there because he really saw beyond my illness and really saw me as a human being and I was incredibly grateful for that.

I remember later - after waking up from the coma, I couldn't speak, so I was mouthing out that I wanted to go outside and I was told that I was too immune suppressed I couldn't go outside and I never forget him coming in one day early to his shift to take me for a CT scan. At the end of that he waited for me and he took me out. I was going through a hallway that I didn't recognize was in the basement and I just remember seeing these two black double doors that he opened up and he brought me out onto the loading dock at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

It was an August day, it was gorgeous it was hot and I remember him pushing my gurney into the sunlight and taking the blanket off and just standing there with me for like five minutes, not saying anything and it was one of the most significant things and kindest things I think that anybody had done for me other than saving my life of course. Which I'm grateful for but he really did see the human side of medicine and did something and went out of his way to do something that was really very healing and very helpful to me in my morale. I'm really grateful to him for that. There were so many other great examples, I mean my nurse Erin who is my nurse practitioner, she's been with me from the very beginning and I remember going in with my parents one day and feeling really depressed, I mean I was really down in the dumps and probably hadn't taken a shower in a week and I was sitting in this you know target's sweatsuit.

I had probably worn the same thing for the past week also and my doctor was changing my medication because I had a bad reaction to it and he left the room and I just was completely convinced I was not going to get better and I looked at Erin she was had her back to me at first and I said, Erin will I ever get better and she turned around and she looked at me and I knew that she didn't know what to say that was a sense I got, but she looked right in my eyes and she said yes you will get better.

I really held on to that. I think that words are so important nobody gave me false hope. I mean there was not a lot of encouraging words. When I came out and asked her that question I am so grateful that she did respond that way because I do believe that. I thought if Erin thinks I'll survive, well she must know something that I don't know and I was going to hold on to that. There's so much so many things that people can do that make a huge difference in the way that you as a patient can try to help yourself mentally and emotionally and I was always grateful for that.

That's why I say so often to people, it's not only what you say, it's how you say it, our nonverbal matter a lot to patients too. I mean we can tell when somebody's in a while or people aren't getting along and it causes a lot of stress that's really unnecessary. One of the patient's biggest fears is to think that their team is not getting along, because they're not getting along they're not communicating and that is very scary for a patient or a family member to feel that way.

The Key to Excellent Patient Experience

I think communication really is one of the key reasons or key factors and people's experience in making it a better one than what it might be otherwise. So, what you say, how you say it,  the way you say things, your facial expressions, your body movements and gestures really do matter to patients and families. All of these things don't take any more time to learn, it's a skill set like any other. There's not a lot of emphasis on this in medical school, which I think is changing but it's a learned skill like any other and I think people can be trained to do this and do it really effectively.

It will make a big difference in how your patients and those family members or caregivers perceive you as well as the medical facility that you work at. It's really about building trust and credibility. You want to have every opportunity to take advantage of that and continue to build that relationship with people. That's what makes people come back and also talk about you and the great experience that they had with you, even if the outcome isn't always a positive one like in my case.

I've spoken to family members whose relatives have passed away in the hospital but they still speak very highly of their medical team, and it was because in large part the way that they were communicated with compassion, with providing context around why decisions were being made and really being you know very caring in the way that they approach their communication and with those family members as well.

I think regardless of what the outcome is positive or negative, it can still be a positive experience for the people around that patient as well and that in my opinion has more to do with the way that they're communicated with than anything else, especially in a situation where someone doesn't survive. Those are the memories that they're going to have for those staff members who were really caring and showed compassion not only to the patient and their loved one, but also to the family members themselves.

I hope that people who read the book will walk away with a better understanding of why this is important, and from the patient perspective. I think it's easy as a professional to sort of understand that yes that's important of course but unless you have been hospitalized yourself or you have a family member who's been hospitalized, you really don't understand fully the impact of what your action might be on someone until you yourself have gone through it. That's why I think it's so important for patients to speak about this, because I think that there's so much that can be learned from us because we will tell you what our experience was.

Through that knowledge and through that perspective, you're probably better able to see another person's perspective inside of your point of view and I think that goes a long way in being able to determine what their experience was and how that could be improved or how it could be replicated. What could be done that would be almost a protocol or a system for continuing those great practices of communication, to improve the patient experience and it really is about engagement, how are you engaging with people and are you doing that in a way that they can connect with you on and can appreciate any of the efforts that you're making.
We obviously want the best person the smartest person in the room to do our surgery to take care of us in that way, but I think that if you have that going for you which I would tend to believe that you do, if we've gotten to the point that we're meeting with you and we've made the decision to have you treat us. The thing that can make that experience so much better is your ability to be a more effective communicator with us and or our family members. That just really solidifies the relationship and provide more effective and positive experience that we have with not only you but with the hospital that you represent. My name is

Fostering the Patient Voice in Medicine | Sarah Kucharski

Living with rare disease, anyone will tell you that it's isolating because you're not just going to like bump into somebody on the elevator who shares your same diagnosis and it's not the kind of thing that there are sport group meetings held in the local church basement either and so is really about social media.

Sarah E. Kucharski is a patient advocate, speaker, writer, patient, communications and health care consultant

Sarah’s Story

I got  involved in patient advocacy because I am a rare disease patient and as a rare disease patient it is extremely important to be able to be actively engaged in care to take a certain responsibility for directing your care, because you’re yourself 24/7, 365 and that's a lot more time than the doctors will ever really get to spend with you. I was diagnosed with rare disease when I was 31 and it actually came about because I had done a lot of investigation into my own care. My background is as a journalist and so I'd read all the information that I could get my hands on, done the research, read the medical journals and actually written an email to a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic and said, I know that sounds kind of crazy, but I think that I have this rare disease. She wrote back and said, I think you're right.

My medical history had been really complicated, for years as a teen preteen, I'd actually presented with gastrointestinal trouble and nobody ever thought GI problems, vascular cause. It took a very long time for us to even get to the point that anyone started looking down that path. I went through having triple bypass surgery that ultimately failed. I lost my left kidney. I had a stroke, four brain aneurysms, three of which were coiled and a gastric rupture. After having that in a period of about five to six years, that's when I said he didn't. Nobody has just this bad luck, like there's got to be something more here. There's got to be something overarching and that's when I really got serious about doing my research and reach the diagnosis.

Isolation & Rare Disease

Living with rare disease, anyone will tell you that it's isolating because you're not just going to like bump into somebody on the elevator who shares your same diagnosis and it's not the kind of thing that there are sport group meetings held in the local church basement either and so is really about social media. That without the Internet, without twitter and Facebook, or even registries and individual hospital systems, their forum board, etc.,, it would be so incredibly hard to find a patient community. We can maybe be a little less particular in that maybe a person doesn't have to share exactly our same diagnosis, but they are a rare disease patient too. So they understand some of the struggles of achieving diagnosis, of routine care, of having anybody else who says, you know, yes, me too, I know what that's like.

Health & Patient Empowerment

As far as my health, knock on wood, everything's actually pretty good right now. Things have been quiet, from just a pure health standpoint, I'm doing great. Thinking about the patient experience and its role in health care for rare disease patients, there's a saying of when you hear hoofbeats look for horses, but we need providers who are willing to entertain the notion that sometimes hoofbeats actually are zebras.

We need people who are willing to think outside the box and be curious. Curiosity, I think is one of the most valuable components of any person is what pursues you to find answers, to explore things, to get new knowledge about anything and so I would encourage that risk taking, that curiosity and if we can use that in a way that advances care, that is not reckless. I think perhaps sometimes people think of curiosity and in rare disease diagnosis as trying to be house MD and it's not necessarily about that. It's about really just asking the questions to explore the possibilities.

Rare Disease & Stigma

Having a rare disease inherently. I think people they hear that and they pause for a moment of it may very well be based in fear of what is this thing? Can it impact me? Is it transferable? Anything like that in rare diseases are really so much more common than people realize. The last statistics that I read about rare diseases was that combined, they affect more than like aids and cancer combined because there are 7,000 known rare diseases. It just means that we're a very fragmented population, but chances are, you actually probably know someone with a rare disease and there are diseases that you may have heard of that get a little bit more name recognition that it's not necessarily as rare as you may think, in a way. It's not something to be afraid of because actually research into rare diseases has unlocked information about many more common diseases that when you look at research studies and research arms that pursuing the mechanisms of these rare diseases, we can find out so much more about things that are more comments such as alzheimer's or diabetes.

Outlook on the Healthcare Environment

My overall outlook on the healthcare environment has changed over the past six years or so. In a way I feel like I used to be more hopeful because I was also more naive. Seeing how long change takes is maddening and depressing in a way. We're still trying so hard to push some of the same needles that we were trying to push years ago. I'm not someone who's been at this for 20, 30 years and I'm frustrated. There have been things that have happened politically that have pushed us backwards and I worry that for people like me, we may lose some of the protections that we’ve gained. I try very hard to maintain a sense of optimism and actually one of the guys here at Planetree, his name is Alan Manning and he's actually, I think VP of Planetree. He gave a wonderful lesson on hope as a speaker here a few years ago that he said; hope can change, hope isn't a stagnant thing. I had always worried that the people who felt like they hoped for change weren't maybe doing enough to impact it, but we can hope for different things in that whole change along the pathway that it grows and it becomes something that expands based on what we've learned. That's the first definition of hope that I've ever really liked. It makes me feel like it does respond to the changes around us.

Advice to All

I want to encourage people to stay at it, to keep trying to make a difference, to maybe know when they get into it that the needle move slowly or at least know that they're not alone in feeling like the needle is moving so slowly. That may be a different problem that we have to solve. We talk about physician burnout, we talk about patient burnout. How can we address burnout from trying to make things better, from trying to find solutions from getting ourselves to a point that we're not going to give up.

Planetree’s Impact

The Planetree organization and this conference is something that I learned about I think three, maybe four years ago and I was utterly shocked that I had not heard about them sooner because this was a group that I could say was actually doing everything right. That how they're approaching care, how they're focusing on patient centered care, but from a very provider focused angle is really interesting. It's really encouraging and it's something that I as a patient support because we often talk about patient experience as being something that’s so patient focused without talking about the people who are actually supposed to provide the care, and caring for those people. Making their environment, their jobs, their reward system, something that is conducive to a healthy care environment, that's only going to benefit all of us. I hope that more people get involved with Planetree. I hope that more systems see opportunities for patient engagement that aren't solely patient focused, but that we have opportunities to contribute to measures that will improve provider staff, employee care, so that they can do a great job of caring for us.

The Story of e-Patient Dave | Dave deBronkart

The mission of my advocacy is to help health care achieve its potential, not just for the patients and families, the ones who are trying to avoid a death or cure a chronic condition or something, but also for the people who saved my life.

Dave deBronkart is known on the internet as e-Patient Dave. He is an advocate for the e-patient movement where the E is for; engaged, empowered, equipped, enabled, educated, etc. The e-patient movement as he states, are patients who really take responsibility for having an active role in their health and their care and they seek out doctors and nurses who welcome that.

Becoming an e-Patient

It's funny, in the 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy was running and the reporter asked him how did you become a war hero and he said it was involuntary they sank my boat. That's what happened with me, I found out I was almost dead of stage four cancer and in the process of helping my doctors and nurses saved my life, I was actively involved and then after that I discovered that the way I had acted was called being an e-patient. Turns out my doctor Danny Sands is one of the pioneers of that movement.

Twenty years ago he wrote the first medical journal peer-reviewed journal article on how to do doctor/patient email, 1998 in the last century. We have so many patients today whose doctors don't want to do email. First of all during my disease, he recommended an online patient community for me, so yes, my doctor sent me to the Internet, which is amazing.

It's funny because so many doctors today say patients should stay off the internet because there's no guarantee of quality of what's out there. Dr. Sands took the opposite position, there's no guarantee of what's out there so I'll recommend something. Some people think that patient empowerment is about overthrowing medical expertise. To the contrary Dr. Sands and I both look at it as how do we use his expertise in today's world, instead of trying to hold back the tide.

I started blogging about the e-patient movement, because after I got better he told me about it and then it just so happened that a blog post landed on the front page of the Boston Globe newspaper, I started getting invited to policy meetings in Washington and to give speeches.

Patient Engagement and the Internet

There's an error in the mythology of this e-Patient Dave guy because once you become an Internet thing you lose control of it. I have a TED talk and the description of the TED talk is wrong, but they won't change it, so who know there's unreliable information on the Internet. It says that I faced an incurable disease and went to the internet and found a cure that my doctors didn't know about, that's not correct, number one, my doctor sent me to the Internet, number two, they told me about the only treatment that might cure a person back in 2007. That was before I actually got to the oncologist at my hospital and they offered it and they said that they were already planning to see if I would qualify for it.

What led me to be an engaged patient was nothing different from what led me to be an engaged buyer of cars or televisions. I just like to be responsible for my decisions. Although, I'm not a TV engineer or a car engineer or even a car mechanic. I make it a point to learn what I can, so that's it. I had no idea I was doing something that's considered abnormal in medicine.

Patient Empowerment

I never say you should be like me, because I mean the essence of patient-centered care is to realize that the whole point is to help somebody with their needs as they define them. Some people want a ton of information, whether it's about buying cars or dealing with cancer or anything. Some people say that drives me nuts, if you want to take care of me boil it down and just tell me what I need to do I'll follow your instructions. That's how I am with cars.


The mission of my advocacy is to help health care achieve its potential, not just for the patients and families the ones who are trying to avoid a death or cure a chronic condition or something, but also for the people who saved my life. To get into that department of that hospital, they had to do a whole lot of work beyond what I did in college, they had to take additional schooling, they had to study hard in ways that I didn't, they had to pass additional exams and not only that but once they got licensed, they ha

d to do good enough work over the years that they got promoted into those units. I want them to have a good life also. My mission really is for health care to achieve its potential, and so for some people who want to be involved, I want them to know that it's legitimate for them to think and ask questions. I want their care providers to realize that it's legitimate as well and they should never say stop googling and stay off the internet, if somebody wants to be involved and help, give them a shovel so they can do some of the work, find a way to do it. It doesn't have to be the MDs time by the way, there can be numerous other people in the practice that can coach the patient and help them develop their skills.

Utopia Healthcare

How do we how do we make everyone happy at the same time? The honest truth and I say this as a businessman, I am not anti-money, I am not anti-business, I have opinions about what would be the best way to do things. But, the reality is that, all of those parties, patients, doctors, hospitals and so on in particular unique -- I've spoken in 19 countries now, 600 events I've seen a lot of different health systems and the thing that is uniquely American is the pressure of boards of directors to protect every individual organizations assets. Whether it's a for-profit company trying to produce dividends, or a non-profit that needs to bridge, it's a real problem, but that's not something I can address. All I'm trying to do is sort of alter the quality of the water in the pond that we all drink from. If we fail to notice that informed patients can improve how well it all works out, nobody's going to be hurt by that right. The whole process of patient arrives at the doorstep of health care, something happens and you end up with an outcome if the patient is more capable more is possible.

If you want to see how common-sense this is, imagine taking it the other way around, imagine you start with a world of capable people, and then make one of them dumb. Obvious, I'm exaggerating I’m using a rude word when I say dumb, but obviously things can't work out as well. So, we’re just running that movie backwards, we're starting out with people who don't realize -- we have so many people so many stories of people who have improved their outcome. In my case, the only drug that might have saved me had side effects that sometimes kill people. Now, the normal thing to do is say boy I hope I'm one of the lucky ones, but I'd never heard of e-patients, I said so how do I prepare for the side-effects. The oncologist said nobody's ever asked us that. I talked to the oncologist first, I didn't say who needs doctors. I talked to the oncologist first, he said we don't have any advice. I turned to the patients they gave me 17 firsthand stories and none of it was any guarantee, but afterwards the oncologist said I wish we could bottle what you did and administer it to other patients.

He actually said in the BMJ, the British Medical Journal I don't know if you could have tolerated as much medicine, if you hadn't been so prepared. Think about that, I don't know if you could have tolerated enough medicine if you hadn't been so engaged is what he said. I would quite likely be dead, and you know what else--- He didn't just say that in passing, they have a booklet now on how to deal with the side effects, so that's real doctor-patient partnership, learning from each other and all of us are better off because of the partnership. That's exactly what I mean.

Legacy of e-Patient Dave

I would like my legacy ultimately to be that 50,20,10,5 years from now be that it's normal for people to go looking for information, and for the medical practice to welcome it. I think it would make the world of sense to have a prep call before the visit. Many business meetings you'll have a prep call before they bring up some issues, so that when you actually get there, your time is more productive. Why not do that with doctor visits? Cigarette smoking finally came to an end, when we started teaching kids in grade school about the dangers of smoking, and made go ew. We're still trying to do that with sugary drinks, and so on. Actually last week I had my first example of my daughter's a high school science teacher, and I taught a lecture in her class on patient engagement and empowerment and shifting from paternalism to autonomy. Why not start teaching kids to think for themselves, why not start teaching them how to Google safely even when they're in grade school or whatever is the appropriate grade. Because, then as people grow up thinking for themselves, it'll be natural not just for the patients, but there are a bunch of those little kids that will be doctors someday too and they'll grow up thinking it's natural.


Really it all boils down to, there's a wonderful woman named Alexandra Drain, who was sort of my spirit guide in the early days of my doing this work and we had a lunch meeting one day and I went off to a cubical outside her office. She said if you want people to support you, you need something that's more inspiring than Dave deBronkart or even e-Patient Dave. I came back a half an hour later with the slogan “let Patients Help”, which really embodies it all. At the end of my TED talk I got the crowd chanting “Let Patients Help” it became the title of my book. This emphasizes it's not about overthrowing physicians, it's about the reality that patients can help make health care achieve its potential better

Putting Patients First, Patrick A Charmel

“I've never really accepted the status quo and as long as I have the ability to influence change, I find that sustaining, fulfilling and self-actualizing” Patrick A. Charmel.

Patrick Charmel, is the chairman of the board at Planetree International and the president of Griffin Health Planetree’s parent company.

Patient Centered Approach

As president of Griffin Health and chairman of the board PlaneTree, I've been advocating for a patient centered approach to care for more than 30 years. As an acute care hospital, Griffin recognized many years ago that what we've done in the hospital industry is really focused on the needs of the provider, the physician and other caregivers like nurses, the technology that we use to deliver care.

The principle focus was on that and the patient was almost secondary and we recognized that was wrong and we needed to shift that focus. Planetree actually gave us a set of principles and a philosophy that helped us change our frame of reference to how we viewed care delivery.

The Journey to Improving Care

Over the last 30 years, we've been on the journey to use those principles to reinvent care from the patient's perspective. So early on we asked caregivers what they want from the patient experience, if they were a patient or a member of their family, what would they want from in hospital experience. We really focused primarily on the hospital experience and we had people articulate that and then we ask them to contrast what they described as the ideal experience to how we were then delivering care.

That was 30 years ago and there was a pretty big gap between the ideal that they described and how they viewed us delivering care at the time and frankly before we had asked that question and they had created that contrast between what they want from there for themselves in their family and the way we're delivering care now.

Shifting Dynamic Tension

They actually didn't see it. They didn't know that they weren't meeting the needs of patients because they had no frame of reference, but they were creating that gap. What that did was created what we call dynamic tension. So people saw the ideal and current reality and once they realized current reality wasn't the ideal, they wanted to move from where we were to where collectively we said we want to be.

That tension kind of drove us or propelled us toward the ideal and everybody wanted to be part of that because again, it was consistent with their personal values. It wasn't something that we impose on the organization. We said, what do you want as a caregiver? How would you want to meet the needs of your patients? And then as an institution, how can we remove all the barriers that prevent that from happening?

Some of it was policy and procedure, some of, is it conventional wisdom, some of is the rules and some of it is just the way we think. Some of it was physical barriers, the way the facility was designed because then we had a very traditional facility design. We changed all of that.

Designing for Patient Centered Care

I think in this work, when you talk about patient center, we definitely want to personalize care. We want to humanize care. But if you're running a large facility based organization, you're only going to be able to tailor care to a certain extent. It would be unrealistic or disingenuous for me to say that we can personalize everything we do we customize it down to the individual. I call it mass customization. There's this standard approach that we've adopted that is more patient centered that focuses more on the needs of patients in general.

Again, everything from the rules that we established and how we design the facility and then we do what we can to assess the individual's personal or special needs and make sure that we built in flexibility so that we can respond to that. Part of it is just educating empowering consumers so they can be actively involved in decisions affecting their care.

It's nice to say that we respond to people's needs, but how did they articulate their needs if we don't give them the information and the insight to be able to do that, and that's really been the foundation of the Plantree model. Planetree started as a library 40 years ago in downtown San Francisco. We're celebrating the 40th anniversary of

Planetree, but Planetree wasn't a care model until 10 years into its existence. It was a library in downtown San Francisco because its founder,  Angelica Thieriot had said, look, the only way that the healthcare system would be more responsive to healthcare consumers if we empower consumers and the way you do that is through access to information.

Well, there was no internet. People couldn't google it. So they went and they created a medical library that was staffed by trained medical librarians that was open to the community and created this groundswell of informed consumers. That's what motivated the healthcare delivery system to change, once we empowered consumers to be more involved, to play a more active role in their own wellbeing.

Maintaining a Standard of Excellence

It really resonated with me personally and like most caregivers, I was drawn into healthcare because I wanted to make a difference in people's lives. Frankly I want to do important and meaningful work. And when I started to see-- and I wasn't at the beginning of my career, but fairly early on in my career that the way care was being delivered, the way hospitals operated was doing a disservice not only to patients but caregivers, I felt sort of a responsibility to change it.

Then when you begin to make changes and you see the impact that's having, it motivates you to do more. As Planetree grew on, we were the first affiliate of the Planetree network, there were five models sites. Griffin was the first affiliate, we helped start the affiliate network and then it grew from there. When you create a community of like minded organizations who are trying to change the world, it's very energizing.

So learning from others who are also on the same journey, even if you lost your enthusiasm, we're all very competitive. If the community is moving and you're lagging, even though you might have started this movement, that motivates you or they kind of pull you along.

Because we believe in this, we're kind of evangelists for patient centered care, the individuals that are attracted to our organization, the caregivers that want to work there, come with a certain expectation on how we're going to perform and if we're not delivering on that promise, they don't mind slapping me in the side of the head and say, wait a minute, you're supposed to be patient centered and what you just did is inconsistent with that. So they keep you honest.

Remaining Energized & Driven in  Healthcare

Between community and our caregivers and patients saying, hey, this is supposed to be the Disneyland of hospitals, and Space Mountains not working today. You gotta fix that. Those things together I think really provide the impetus and the energy to continue this work. When I got into healthcare, I remember telling people that I was going to be a hospital administrator and people thought that was pretty boring.

Not very exciting, pretty mundane and I guess it could be if you approach it that way, if you didn't look for opportunities to really change. I like being a disruptor. I've never really accepted the status quo and as long as I have the ability to influence change, I find that sustaining, fulfilling and self-actualizing. And again, being part of an organization like this, that's what all of these people are. They're kind of change agents. So I think that's what, that's what keeps me going.

Person Centered Care at Planetree Inc, Susan B. Frampton, PhD

“One of the things that all people have the ability to do is to listen, to be a compassionate listener and to approach other human beings with that openness to whatever their experience is” S Frampton, PhD.

Susan Frampton, PhD is the president of Planetree International.

Planetree is both a philosophy of care, of patient centered care, of care that engages patients and families as a part of their care team. Planetree is also an organization that has advocated for the rights for patients and families to be more actively engaged in their own care for 40 years.

Technology & Humanism in Medicine

In terms of the future of patient centered care and Planetree’s role in that, I think that it will really be a challenge for us to look at the intersection of technology and the human touch and to not lose that human side of the care equation in this rush towards implementing more and more sophisticated technology.

There's some wonderful benefits that we have in store in terms of communications technology, in terms of artificial intelligence, but always we have to remember that at the center of the equation is a vulnerable human beings with human needs and that we have to make sure that we find a way to bridge technology and those human needs.

Healthcare Professionals Role in Person Centered Care

I think that the role of healthcare workers, healthcare professionals, advocates, in person centered care in the future as well as currently is absolutely essential. So, when we talk about patient and family engagement, we also are addressing staff engagement because the people that deliver that care, they're also at the center of the equation.

That's why we've really moved from talking about patient centered care to person centered care because they're also a part of the people that we have to make sure are supported, are engaged and involved so that they can give their very best to the patients. But in order to do that, we have to make sure that they're getting the support and the training that they need to do the very best that they can.

Empathy & Care Delivery

One of the things that all people have the ability to do is to listen and to be a compassionate listener. To approach other human beings with that openness to whatever their experience is. To understand that to try to meet other people where they're at and not to make judgments about things. To really try to be a little broader in the way that we approach other people so that again, we're trying to put ourselves in their shoes to understand what their experience, what their reality is.

I mean, that can be so diverse. It is a challenge because all of us have our own biases, whether we acknowledge them or not. We come from our own set of experiences and our own background and our own, training or what have you. But I think when we come together, particularly in healthcare, we have to challenge ourselves to think more broadly, to be more open and to be more compassionate listeners to the human beings that we're trying to support.

Patient Empowerment Initatives

So #careboss in many ways encapsulates what the whole philosophy of person centered care is, which is each of us has an opportunity to take more control of our own healthcare, to be advocates for ourselves, for our families, for our communities, and Careboss is a way of kind of energizing people to understand, you don't have to be a victim. You don't have to be the person who sits passively, that we do have power.

We have expertise about our own lived experience, about our own bodies, our own needs, and so it's really a movement to try to energize people to kind of take that power back to be the boss of their own care. To the extent that they're able to, where they're comfortable to. And so we're hoping that people will use that hashtag (#careboss) to share their experiences. To maybe give us their thoughts and perspectives about what it means to be in a space of more accountability for your own life, your own self, and what role you want to have in your own healthcare.