“It’s too bad patient-centered care is not rocket science, because if it was, we would be really good at it.” – Laura Gilpin

This remarkable quote from the late patients-rights advocate and member of the founding Planetree staff Laura Gilpin cuts clear to the core of the challenges faced in patient-centered care. Some times things so ostensibly simple and basic and foundational get overlooked in favor of problems with more on-the-surface complexity. Make no mistake: patient-centered care is plenty complex. But thanks to the work of organizations like Planetree, exciting, patient-centered healthcare solutions are being developed that show results and are improving outcomes. Steelcase Health had the pleasure of attending this year’s Planetree International Conference on Patient-Centered Care October 12 – 15 in Chicago.

Michelle Ossman of Steelcase Health onstage at Planetree.
Michelle Ossman of Steelcase Health onstage at Planetree.


Rebecca Costa, in her keynote address titled “Hope for Healthcare”, described the detrimental effects complexity has had on the healthcare industry. An evolutionary biologist, Costa understands that failure to adapt to and utilize vast amounts of information will result in extinction. Explaining how computer-assisted decision making is being used in healthcare to overcome what she called “irrational human resistance”, Costa drew upon the time-honored principles of “Fast Adaptation” to prophesize a nimble, efficient transition to a new era of patient-centric care. Follow Rebecca on Twitter here.

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Bill Coble of Steelcase Health had the opportunity to lead a breakout session, with a presentation titled “Exam Rooms that Empower“. He focused on the challenges, insights and application ideas for connecting people, place and technology in the modern exam room.

Powered by Patients

The message of Planetree 2014 was Powered by Patients. Planetree, founded in 1978 by a patient to amplify the voice of the patients to improve the healthcare delivery system, partners with healthcare organizations, patient advocacy groups, policy makers and researchers, and had over 18 countries represented this year. Among the patient-centered care practices identified by patient themselves as how they want care delivered examined at the conference included shared medical records, patient-directed visiting, bedside shift reports and an increase in care partners.

“The highlight of Planetree this year for me,” said Bill Coble, “was the discussion on physician engagement as shared by Dr. Steven Horowitz, focusing on the physician’s perspective on coping with time constraints, depression, stress and suicide. He asked, ‘How can the patient population also be empathetic to their physicians?’” The section on physician workspaces and retreat areas in the Healthcare: Time for Change Insights and Applications Guide is timely material.

“Empathy was the rallying cry to me from this conference, along with collaboration,” Coble said. “How do we take lessons from the anti-smoking campaign and leverage social media, population health, the built environment and a host of other platforms of knowledge to innovate our health care delivery system?”

Sara Marberry wrote about her time at Planetree as well, quoting one of the keynote speakers Alexandra Drane, co-founder of Eliza Corporation: “Empathy is the single biggest missing ingredient in the healthcare space.” Very true. Check out her post here.

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