At its core, delivering person-centered care requires partnering with those receiving the care. These partnerships are key to identifying an individual’s needs and goals as well as redesigning care systems around what matters to patients and what impacts their wellbeing. Our work in Camden redesigning care delivery would not be possible without partnership with our patients, and partnering with consumers to address systemic barriers to health and wellbeing is a key component of complex care.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has recently launched a campaign that highlights collaborative and transformational partnerships between patients and health systems from across the country. The Power of Partnership (POP!) campaign aims to identify and celebrate successful partnerships between health systems and consumers that improve care for everyone.

RWJF serves as co-host for this year’s Putting Care at the Center conference in Chicago December 5-7, and the campaign will also be featured in a plenary session at the event. RWJF is using POP! to identify a patient-provider pair to speak on the plenary. Do you have a story about transforming care through partnership? Share it in the POP! Facebook community.

We sat down with Susan Mende, Senior Program Officer at RWJF, to explore the campaign’s tenets. She connected these tenets to the field of complex care and discussed the critical importance of lived experience in enacting and sustaining change.

National Center: How did RWJF identify patient-led transformation as the basis for a major campaign? What is the problem that the Foundation is trying to solve with this campaign?

Susan Mende: We know that healthcare consumers want care that is coordinated, convenient, cost-effective, and well-communicated—and is arranged around their goals and priorities. The best way for the healthcare system to address these wishes is to partner directly with consumers to drive solutions. There are examples of systems and healthcare practices that are working in partnership with patients to deliver what they want, and that’s what we’re celebrating. It’s hard work and we can learn a lot from each other just by sharing innovative examples.

National Center: How does this campaign ladder up to RWJF’s larger “Culture of Health” framework?

Susan: In a Culture of Health, care is equitable and delivered in ways that respect the goals, needs and preferences of patients and families. A Culture of Health requires care centered around what patients and communities say they need and value, which is exactly this campaign’s focus.

National Center: How does the Power of Partnership (POP!) campaign relate to the growing field of complex care?

Susan: The way healthcare has historically been delivered in our country—a top-down, institutional and uncoordinated approach—hasn’t worked for patients with complex health and social needs (or for that matter for many patients). The only way we can redesign the care system so that it meets patients’ needs and goals—including traditionally non-medical needs like transportation and housing—is by working with patients themselves. Patient involvement in system design highlights where the process can be improved, ultimately leading to better care. We need the voices and views of people living with complex health and social needs to guide the way. This is the path toward success. It’s absolutely critical to hear from those doing the work—and what better way than to ask them directly?

National Center: How do you envision the POP! campaign forming the basis of the plenary discussion? What takeaways are you hoping the audience will have?

Susan: The Power of Partnership (POP!) is identifying and celebrating innovative partnerships between patients and systems. We know that change is hard and messy—but it is happening! We hope that by spreading examples of where partnerships have stumbled and succeeded, we can replicate success and inspire communities across the country.

National Center: What are some important things you’ve learned at RWJF (or from previous experiences) about the importance of consumer engagement and leadership in care delivery transformation?

Susan: No matter how clinicians try to imagine what it’s like being a patient, you can’t fully understand something you don’t experience. I recently heard a story about a hospital that required their staff take public transportation to the hospital one day. It’s a 20-minute drive from downtown, but takes over an hour on public transportation—not accounting for how far you might have to walk to get to the bus, or how many routes you need to transfer across, how much it costs or if some of the neighborhoods you pass through are unsafe. It is obviously a huge time investment, but for patients who are not feeling well, or may have trouble walking, this trek can also exacerbate existing health conditions. This small but powerful exercise helped staff understand why their patients are sometimes reluctant to make appointments, arrive late, miss appointments altogether, or are so stressed by the time they arrive to see the doctor. The staff realized it’s important to bundle appointments and tests into a single visit and to work with patients to find times that work for them. This is the power of partnership and the result of redesign that prioritizes patients’ needs.

The Power of Partnership (POP!) campaign will share examples, large and small, of how systems and patients are approaching this work together so that we build on hard lessons that others have already learned and avoid reinventing the wheel. Join the Power of Partnership (POP!) Facebook community to learn more and stay updated on successful partnerships from across the country that have overcome challenges and improved care in ways that matter to patients.