The Planetree Patient Preferences Passport: An Innovative Tool to Drive Patient and Family Engagement

The Planetree Patient Preferences Passport: An Innovative Tool to Drive Patient and Family Engagement
By Jim Kinsey, Planetree Director of Member Experience

Patient activation has been identified as the “blockbuster drug of the century” (Health Affairs, Feb. 2013).  That’s a dramatic statement, to be sure, but it is based on evidence that engaging with patients and family members in decision-making, care planning and evaluation of outcomes is a potent determinant of high quality, high value health care.  This bold declaration that patient activation yields better healthcare outcomes at lower costs has rallied many in the field to examine what it means to engage patients and family members.  Planetree has been examining this question for nearly 40 years—by first asking patients and family members how they want to interact with their healthcare providers, and then developing approaches to operationalize care processes and develop training and resources to facilitate those kind of compassionate, respectful and mutually constructive interactions.

The latest of these offerings is the Planetree Patient Preferences Passport, and an associated educational and training program.

The Passport

The centerpiece of the program is the Planetree Patient Preferences Passport, Patient-Preference-Passportan iteration of a patient passport created by the National Quality Forum (NQF) with significant input by NQF’s Patient and Family Engagement Action Team.  Available in both hard copy (pictured here) and electronically as a free app at, the purpose of the tool is to provide an easy-to-use vehicle for capturing patients’ personal preferences as they relate to their health care, their health and well-being, and their goals.  The questions included in the passport derive from patients and family members themselves, drawing on personal experiences of what they felt was important for their caregivers to know when planning for their care.  The passport serves multiple purposes.  It:

  • Prompts patients to give consideration to their preferences for care and treatment and to document those preferences to healthcare professionals and family members, in advance of any care episode, when conveying this information may be unmanageable.
  • Opens the door for healthcare professionals to initiate discussions with patients about potentially sensitive and highly-charged topics such as advanced directives, in a non-threatening way.
  • Promotes partnership between patients and their caregivers by creating a basis for discussion and shared decision-making influenced by the documented patient preferences.
  • Encourages a more holistic approach to healthcare by imparting crucial self-reported patient information that extends beyond vital signs, diagnoses and medication records.

The Training

The tool, on its own, however, will not engage patients and family members as active members of their healthcare team.  What is needed is experiential training on how to use it effectively, for all who will use the passport to:

  • First, capture vital patient data that up to now has been historically overlooked when it comes to treatment planning and care decisions, and
  • Then USE that patient-reported information as a basis for individualized shared decision making.

After all, having solid processes in place for identifying patient preferences is for naught if they are not accompanied by equally as solid processes for honoring those preferences.

The Patient Preferences Passport Implementation Program was created to fill the void that often exists between the best of intentions and concrete steps to realize patient and family engagement.  The program is comprised of three phases:

  1. Education of all stakeholders about the importance of identifying and honoring patient preferences
  2. Application of this concept in real-life scenarios, provided through experiential training for making the Patient Preferences Passport actionable
  3. Community Roll-Out to magnify the impact of the Passport.

As others in the field are advancing patient and family engagement in significant ways through research, designing curricula for medical education, writing policy and more, Planetree will continue to do what we do best: take the most current knowledge and evidence about patient and family engagement —including the voices of patients themselves— and use it to devise concrete and actionable solutions for change.  We invite you to partner with us to put the Planetree Patient Preferences Passport to use for your patients and their loved ones.

Want to Learn More?

  • Go to to view a demo of the app and/or download the free Doctella app from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
  • Mark your calendars for January 28, 2015 for a webinar about why identifying patient preferences matters, and how the Passport engages patients and providers in capturing and using this information to improve care.  Register here.
  • Contact Jim Kinsey, Planetree’s Director of Member Experience, at 203-732-1362 or