Report Outlines Immediate Steps Healthcare Organizations and Health Professions Schools Should Take To Spur Meaningful Participation for Patients and Families and Community Residents To Foster Optimal Health

New York, NY (June 17, 2014) – Those who deliver care, teach, learn or otherwise work within the healthcare system should treat patients, families, and community residents as full and equal partners to foster optimal health and wellness, according to recommendations issued today by a group of 40 leaders representing healthcare organizations, health professions schools, and consumers. In a new report from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, “Partnering with Patients, Families, and Communities: An Urgent Imperative for Health Care,” the group says patients and their families “must be welcomed as equal partners” at every level and in every health-related endeavor from designing curricula to setting research priorities to hiring faculty.

“We must move beyond what we typically think of as ‘patient engagement’ efforts—things like inviting patients to respond to surveys or to participate on advisory panels—and integrate patients and families as partners throughout the health professions education and delivery system,” said George Thibault, MD, president of the Macy Foundation. “Although this will require a fundamental shift in traditional health professions education and clinical practice and may even cause some initial discomfort, it is a shift that is urgently needed,” he added.

The working group said partnerships needed to create optimal health for all must reach beyond the walls of hospitals, community clinics, clinicians’ offices, and health professions schools into communities, neighborhoods, and homes. Failure to let patients participate in the planning and implementation of their health care “will lead to continued disintegration of health professions education and clinical practice,” said the group.

The report provides a roadmap for moving beyond the popular concept of patient engagement—the realm of personal care decisions, consumer focus groups, satisfaction surveys, and community meetings—to more meaningful participation of patients, families, and communities in the planning and implementation of health care. This includes patients working collaboratively with health care educators and providers to set agendas, determine policies and priorities, and help guide and implement necessary reforms in both clinical practice and health professions training and education. In such partnerships, the patient perspective should be recognized as important as professional expertise.

The report offers four broad recommendations to foster partnerships among patients, families, communities, and health professions education and clinical practice organizations:

1. Make changes in the content and conduct of health professions education necessary to graduate practitioners who partner with patients, families, and leaders in communities.
2. Make changes in health professions education organizations and healthcare organizations necessary to facilitate durable partnerships, both new and existing, with patients, families, and leaders in communities.
3. Build the capacity for partnerships among patients, families, and communities and health professions education and healthcare organizations.
4. Make regulatory and payment reforms that require, support, and sustain partnerships among patients, families, and communities and health professions education and healthcare organizations.

The report identifies immediate steps to help health professions schools and healthcare organizations implement these four recommendations.

The recommendations were formulated at an April 2014 Macy Conference focused on engaging patients in a more formalized way to link reforms at health professions schools with those occurring in clinical practice. The conference was chaired by Terry Fulmer, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean of the Bouvé College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University, and Martha (Meg) Gaines, JD, LLM, director of the Center for Patient Partnerships at the University of Wisconsin Law School.

The report, “Partnering with Patients, Families, and Communities: An Urgent Imperative for Health Care,” is available here.

About the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation

The Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation is the only national foundation solely dedicated to improving the health of the public by advancing the education and training of health professionals. Since 1930, the Macy Foundation has worked toward its mission of improving health care in the United States. Follow us on Twitter and learn more at

More News and Commentary

Harvard Macy Institute

In the 20 years since the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation provided seed funding, the Harvard Macy Institute (HMI) has grown from an initial set of two annually offered courses, to five separate course offerings in Boston,...

Macy Faculty Scholar Kelly Karpa on Interprofessional Education

Kelly Karpa, PhD, RPh, of Penn State College of Medicine discusses her new interprofessional program to teach medical and nurse practitioner students about medications.

Modern Healthcare on the New Era of IPE

Last week, Modern Healthcare’s Andis Robeznieks reported on the growing number of academic medical centers and health systems around the country that are offering training to students and working professionals in how...

Are Med School Grads Prepared to Practice Medicine?

Pauline Chen, MD, health blogger for The New York Times Well Blog, recently wrote about the transition new medical grads go through when they start their internships or residencies.