News and Commentary Building Partnerships with Health Professions Education

Martha (Meg) E. Gaines, JD, LLM, co-chaired the April 2014 Macy conference, “Partnering with Patients, Families, and Communities to Link Interprofessional Practice and Education.” Writing for the Macy blog, Gaines discusses why partnerships in care are needed today:

It is time for us to begin a more inclusive conversation about how health care should change going forward.

At a time when designer medicine, genetic reengineering, telehealth, and remarkable feats of bioengineering are transforming healthcare practice, little is known about how patients, families, and communities will greet these changes, and how they might affect health and health care choices. What is known is that patients are critical partners in the transformation of our healthcare organizations and systems; thus, any attempt to move ahead without patients will likely be wasted time and effort. Emerging data from experiments in “experience-based co-design” (EBCD) in the United Kingdom and from patient engagement efforts in the U.S., suggests that direct involvement of patients in the quality improvement process is valuable (Locock et al. 2014; Tsianakas et al. 2012).

Similarly, patient engagement in the quality improvement efforts of clinical practices within the U.S. – defined as patients working in active partnership with health professionals to improve health and health care – have been shown to foster improvements in patient safety, quality, and functional outcomes, as well as controlling costs (Carman et al. 2013).

Those who practice, administer, teach, and reform health care must commit to partner with those at the center of their efforts—namely patients, families, and communities—to co-create a healthcare system worthy of the American people in the 21st century.

But how do we do that?

There is an astonishing dearth of knowledge about what effective partnerships look like and how they are created; where the “sweet spot” for collaboration lies.

The Macy Conference sought to imagine a world where health professionals embrace partnering with patients, families, and communities as an essential aspect of achieving health. The recommendations set forth the groundwork essential to create such a world.

First, in order for a tectonic shift toward full partnership to occur, there must be a new vision for the education of health professionals; we must model the partnership we seek to develop in our students, we must “walk our talk.” Only in this way will we ensure that our future health care workforce is taught the skills and competencies to build effective partnerships with patients, families, and communities. Achieving that vision is the responsibility of those who practice and benefit from health care. All of us— clinicians, faculty, patients, families, communities, hospitals and clinics, administrators, insurers, and policy makers— must step forward to reconceive how health care is taught, and consequently co-created.

I look forward to working on the chance to reimagine health care with patients and clinicians of the 21st Century.

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