What its organizers deem the oldest international conference on patient-centered care seemed an unlikely mix: part pep rally, classroom, scientific forum, and group hug. In its 23rd year, Planetree’s International Conference on Patient-Centered Care drew about 800 people from 21 countries. Attending as a reporter, I met health-care professionals, executives, and others eager to learn or to teach others how to deliver the kind of health care patients want and need.
Clearly, Planetree had come a long way since its launch in 1978. Founder Angelica Thieriot had been hospitalized at a top San Francisco hospital for a mysterious, life-threatening virus. Doctors and nurses spoke about her but seldom to her, leaving her lonely and scared. They treated her disease but, except for two nurses, ignored her human needs, making her feel like “an old piece of meat.” That steeled her to work toward making health care more humane and holistic.