Compassionate Collaborative Care Conference Creates New Vision

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation and The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare, along with their academic partner, the University of Chicago’s Bucksbaum Institute for Clinical Excellence, and with support from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, convened the conference “Advancing Compassionate, Patient-and Family-Centered Care through Interprofessional Education for Collaborative Practice” from October 30 to November 1, 2014.

The goal of the conference was to identify strategies for engaging and partnering with patients and families to ensure the delivery of compassionate, collaborative care. The conference brought together more than 80 participants representing the fields of medicine, nursing, social work, physical therapy, pharmacy and patient/family advocacy as well as those involved in policy, healthcare system leadership and education/accreditation and licensure.

During the course of the three days, we explored how to integrate the principles and values of compassion and humanism into how learners are educated together and how care teams deliver collaborative care. Our vision is to ensure that with every interaction across the continuum of care, patients will reliably receive high quality, effective care that is focused on their needs, concerns and preferences and is compassionate and collaborative. Care without compassion may be technically excellent but when it is depersonalized it cannot address the unique cultures, concerns, distress and suffering of patients and their families.

The conference was energizing, highly interactive, emotional and impactful. The most powerful aspect  of the conference was the patients and families who attended and  graciously shared their inspiring stories of compassionate, collaborative care that served as a clarion call for the group.

In large and small groups we discussed in depth the specific competencies required by healthcare professionals to provide this optimal care to patients and families. We also explored how such competencies could best be integrated in the clinical education and training of our healthcare providers. We heard from model programs that are implementing various approaches of interprofessional education and team based care, with compassion and a focus on the patient and family at their core.

Throughout the conference, participants brought to the fore the paramount necessity for patients and families to be seen as integral members of the care healthcare team, not just recipients of care. Providers must acknowledge the uniqueness, preferences and values of patients and families and “focus on what matters to the patient as opposed to what is the matter with the patient.” As Juliette Schlucter, a mother of two children with cystic fibrosis and a passionate patient and family advocate, noted: Healthcare and the relationship between provider, patient and family is like a tango–a dance whose steps need to be genuine, authentic and based in trust in order to reflect a true symbiotic relationship.

On the final day, the group grappled with the difficult issue of how to communicate most effectively to all stakeholders–caregivers, healthcare institutions, educators, policymakers, funders, patients and families–about the critical importance of compassionate, collaborative care. There was consensus on the urgency to bring this message forward by embedding compassionate, collaborative care into health professions, educational systems and practice settings, and in doing so to walk alongside patients and families in true and caring partnership.

The Gold Foundation and Schwartz Center will be developing conference-related products, disseminating a recommendations report and a white paper and exploring opportunities to bring together attendees and other stakeholders to continue the important work of championing compassionate, collaborative care.