In 1978, Angelica Thieriot suffered a series of traumatic personal healthcare experiences that lacked compassion, despite providing her with grade-A clinical care. Unable to sit idly by, she founded Planetree, an organization that would go on to define what it means to be a patient-centric healthcare facility.
What began as a kitchen table effort is now an organization with well over 500 affiliate members in 14 different countries throughout the world. “We span every type of healthcare entity, from acute to outpatient to continuing care, so it really runs the gambit of healthcare associations,” says Lisa Platt, director of business and product development at Planetree, noting that one of the hallmarks of integration of Planetree is the organization’s designation program.
To date, Planetree has 63 designated sites that have intentionally implemented cultures that are emblematic of constant human interactions between healthcare givers, providers, staff, and patients, and provide access to information, healing environments and sustainability, nurturing food and nutrition, arts and positive distractions, and community health and well-being. “And of those 63 organizations that have reached that pinnacle of success, seven are designated with distinction, which is a very high bar to reach,” Platt says. “These designated-with-distinction sites are those that have not only integrated the Planetree model of patient-centered care in a very measurable and meaningful way, but they have committed to do ongoing research so they can share what they’ve learned about implementing this model.”
We connected with Platt and Joanne Muzzey, director of patient advocacy and Planetree at Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare outside of Chicago—one of the seven designated-with-distinction sites—to discuss participatory design, what Planetree designation can do for a hospital’s internal culture, and how the organization plans to evolve.
gb&d: How does participatory design play into what Planetree is doing?
Platt: Participatory design is something that Planetree requires of our designated sites, and we have a group called the Planetree Visionary Design Network to demonstrate that they do. The reason being is that you can’t really have patient-centered design if the patients weren’t involved in any part of that design process. Elmhurst really made this a priority for the design of their replacement hospital.
Muzzey: In designing our new campus, we—first of all—looked at a lot of patient feedback that we had received from multiple venues over several years. But as we got more into the hands-on design phase,
we actually brought in about 150 patients that walked through a lot of the mock-ups that we had designed, and we sat and met with them afterward. It was about a weeklong process to really get their feedback and relate it to their perspective of care.
gb&d: What were the mock-up rooms like? And did the feedback lead to design changes?
Muzzey: In the mock-up rooms, we had an inpatient room, a critical care room—a total of six different rooms. They were all designed out of Styrofoam, but were close to the square footage. So they could go in and see the space and help us look at the lighting; for example, they didn’t want such strong patient lighting and let us know that they preferred a reading light to a strong light. So we took that into account and made some modifications. We followed this even as we went into furniture selection, using the patient family advisory council again. We actually brought in a critical care bed to a council meeting, and during the meeting, every one of them laid in the bed for about 10-15 minutes. From their feedback, we were able to bring the proposal to the board and make what was obviously a more costly purchase.
gb&d: What has reaching this distinction certification meant for the hospital staff and everyone involved?
Muzzey: We always had this pyramid of what our goals were. They were always to receive Planetree designation, and our greatest vision was to be designated with distinction. So, by last year, when we actually achieved that, our staff was very recognized for achieving that vision. How many people can actually do that? Achieve a vision you set out to reach? Planetree was so helpful for us, too, because they outlined what that would look like and helped educate our staff and patients about what it would mean. But having that vision to really stand out for a local community hospital really was very exciting, and to this day, very rewarding. I think bringing in and having the tours here really brought it back to our staff, the impact that we’re making as an organization.
gb&d: I actually read an interview between Lisa and Robert Sharrow, the vice president and director of healthcare planning at Albert Kahn Family of Companies. She asked him if this holistic approach and focus on patient-centered care led to a cultural transformation for the facilities he worked on (both Elmhurst and Albert Einstein Israelita Hospital in Brazil). He answered that it had, and it seems like you’re seeing this, too.
Muzzey: Absolutely. We started in 2007 and felt we first really wanted to make an impact on our staff. They needed to change some behaviors. When we moved in 2011, we had an even greater tool to use because we had a space that’s been designed to support what you’re trying to facilitate and do. The new campus has private rooms, which makes 24-hour, patient-directed visiting much easier. We have that in every room to support our care partners. The things that were obstacles in our previous campus were that it was older, smaller, and semi-private, and we now have a space designed to help our staff facilitate what they had already known.
gb&d: And Rob was also the designer on this project, correct?
Platt: Yes, and Rob was one of the founding members of the Planetree Visionary Design Network partnership, and there’s only 12 architectural and design firms in the world that are in that group. Rob is very passionate and a wonderful example of an architect that truly believes that having the patients and frontline staff involved in design is key to, using his words, “design excellence.” Herman is actually our only manufacturer that’s in the visionary design network group because of their commitment to patient-centered care and sustainability.
gb&d: Does Planetree have hopes in the future to balloon that number, 12, up to have more organizations that are on that same level? And do you hope to incorporate more manufacturers like Herman Miller into the network?
Platt: Absolutely. We’re in conversation with almost 2,000 firms who have expressed interest. Some of those are overseas, so we would love to see this growth to be more of a global group than it currently is. The difference between this group and other memberships is that we really do look at these design organizations as true partners. And it’s not necessarily a membership; they go through a robust certification process to be a part of the group, the reason being is that everyone who goes through the process we then trust to walk the walk with what we’re trying to achieve with healing environments that support patient-centered cultures. But absolutely, we would love to see a growth be even more comprehensive and represented by different types of advisors, from contractors to manufactures to engineering firms.