• NQF awarded the 2017 Consumers and Patients for Quality Award to Planetree International, an organization that has led the healthcare industry’s efforts to engage patients and their families as active participants in decisions about their care. NQF spoke recently with Planetree’s president, Susan Frampton, PhD.

    NQF: Planetree International has long been a leader in the healthcare industry’s efforts to improve patient and family engagement. Can you tell us more about the organization and its impact?

    SF: Integrating the patient and family voice in healthcare delivery has been at the heart of Planetree’s work since a patient founded it in 1978. Planetree’s health resource center, one of the first of its kind, provided consumers with a broad array of information about quality and safety. It became a model for hundreds of similar centers around the country.

    Planetree also established the country’s first patient-centered care model, with open medical records, patient-directed visitation, and attention to spiritual and emotional needs. This model is now used in more than 700 clinical sites in 22 countries. Today, Planetree partners with healthcare organizations around the world and across all settings of care to create strong foundations of patient-centered care. Through these partnerships, our work has impacted millions of patients over three decades.

    Planetree - Leadership

    NQF: While tremendous progress has been made to create a strong foundation for patient-centered care, more is needed. What is the biggest challenge from your perspective?

    SF: We’ve been at this for a really long time. To me it’s wonderfully fulfilling to see that we’ve gotten to the point where engagement of patients and families is finally being recognized as essential to high-quality care. But despite all the progress that we are making—in part because of organizations like NQF, in part because of organizations like Planetree, but mostly because of the input of patients and families and their willingness to participate—we still have a huge challenge in front of us, and I’m reminded of that all of the time as patients and families continue to share their stories with us.

    I recently read about a physician who watched his 23-year-old daughter needlessly suffocate in an ICU to the point of brain death. Not because of any lack of data, not because of any lack of technology, not because of lack of a policy or protocol being in place to do what was needed, but simply because staff were not willing to listen to the patient as she repeatedly struggled with her breathing and tried to convey that. Staff also wouldn’t listen to the patient’s father, who repeatedly asked for a trachea kit in her room in case her airway failed and they needed to resuscitate her. It was for that reason alone—that lack of sensitivity to the patient and the family voice—that these sorts of tragedies still happen. They happen every day in hospitals around this country.

    NQF: What does being recognized with NQF’s Consumers and Patients for Quality Award mean for Planetree International?

    SF: I was very, very honored to accept this award, which recognizes not only Planetree but the countless patients, families, and healthcare professionals with whom we have worked nearly four decades to try to make a better, safer healthcare system. I’m hopeful that this recognition will keep the spotlight on the importance of engaging patients and facilitating compassionate interactions in healthcare, and that the community of individuals and organizations that have joined us in this vital work will continue to grow.

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