For many, the U.S. healthcare system is cold, complex, and challenging. Patient advocacy is more relevant than ever before. In its 2006 report on cancer care, the Institute of Medicine found that technological advancement made care more complicated for patients. While healthcare delivery systems are being designed to address complex patient needs, patients’ experiences can be fragmented and frustrating.
As a result, a persistent and energetic consumer movement has emerged to demand high-quality, patient-centered care. However, patients might not have the professional expertise to make effective demands on the system. Modern medicine as complex in its policy as in its practice, and with the tremendous effort many patients are undertaking to fight their own illnesses, some might not have the resources or energy to effectively identify, pursue, and attain what they need. Meanwhile, providers face increasing demands on time, skills and resources.
Helping patients and families address illness-related psycho social, financial and legal issues not only increases satisfaction—it can actually improve health. Moreover, emerging evidence suggests that empowering, educating, and advocating for patients reduces the cost of care while maintaining these good outcomes. Advocacy can help accomplish both objectives. The Center for Patient Partnerships performs this vital advocacy, working with students, patients, and medical professionals to foster accessibility, transparency, and equity from the ground up.
The Center was founded on the belief that to improve healthcare quality, there must be systems and standards for meaningful patient-provider interaction. These changes must be fought for by both patients and the healthcare system itself.
Martha “Meg” Gaines, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, transformed her own experience as a cancer survivor into a model for consumer-centered patient advocacy. She quickly recognized the educational potential for this type of advocacy—a vision of patients getting help and future medical professionals providing the help they need. Working with colleagues from the schools of medicine, nursing, and public administration, Meg founded the Center for Patient Partnerships in 2000 to make this vision a reality.
Our logo depicts a sailboat. We see advocacy as the vessel and the patient as its captain. As patients, we would never dream of leaving the shore without a first-rate crew. Usually, at the helm, the seas are steady and days pass uneventfully. However, diagnosis troubles the waters. Dangerous seas loom as we face a long and billowy journey through a confusing system. We need the help of our crew to reach safe shores. When we can no longer steer, we turn over the helm. We hit the deck to help the crew or go below to seek shelter from the storm.
The patient is always the captain of this ship. No matter who is at the helm currently, at the end of the day, all decisions that affect our care are ours to make. We rely on the knowledge, expertise, and counsel of our crew in reaching those decisions. The Center for Patient Partnerships exists as a star chart, a compass. We help captains choose destinations, identify crews and plan routes for their healthcare journeys. As part of this process, the Center trains navigators, engineers and first mates for the 21st century.