What is Planetree Designation

Planetree Designation represents the highest level of achievement in patient-/person-centered care based on evidence and standards

At a time when healthcare marketing campaigns increasingly assert organizations are pledging to “put patients first,” the Planetree Designation Program is the only program to formally recognize excellence in patient- and person-centered care across the continuum of care.

The Designation Program provides a structured, operational framework for evaluating the organizational systems and processes necessary to sustain organizational culture change.  Through a set of experience-based and evidence-based criteria, the program converts the aspirational aim of becoming more “patient-centered” into something that is defined, attainable and measurable.

The Designation Criteria

Organized around eleven core dimensions of Patient-Centered Care, including structures and functions necessary for culture change; human interactions; promoting patient education, choice and responsibility; family involvement; dining, food and nutrition; healing environment; healthy communities; measurement and more, the criteria collectively uniquely capture the depth and scope of what it takes, in real terms, to implement and maintain a patient-centered culture.  They address the patient and resident experience, as well as the experiences of family members, front-line staff, leadership teams, the medical staff, patient and family advisors and board members.

Pursuing Designation

In order to achieve designation, an applicant site undergoes a rigorous, yet collaborative, process to validate that its patient-centered activities effectively meet the spirit and intent of the designation criteria.  An applicant site initially conducts a self-assessment and submits written documentation to Planetree.  This reflective process is intended to help organizations celebrate successes and develop action plans for shoring up gaps.  It is not sufficient for an applicant to demonstrate its patient-/resident-centered practices on paper; it must be apparent from interacting with patients, residents and staff that the organization lives its commitment to patient-/resident-centered care daily.  After reviewing the self-assessment and application materials, Planetree schedules a site visit that consists of the following:

  • Observation of services
  • Facility walk-through
  • Focus groups with patients/residents and families
  • Focus groups with staff and organization leadership (including members of the governing board)
  • Meeting with Patient/Resident and Family Advisory Council
  • Random patient/resident and staff interviews
  • A review of outcomes measurement data
  • Meeting with the group that oversees organization-wide implementation of patient-centered practices

Following the site visit, the site receives a status report with suggestions related to opportunities to further enhance patient-/resident-centered care.  The report also includes targeted areas requiring follow-up action from the site before a designation determination can be made.  A committee of healthcare experts, inclusive of health care executives, nurse leaders, patient advocates and policy makers, makes the final determination on designation.

Click here for the Designation Criteria (domestic and international)  and the Self-Assessment Document

The Benefits of Planetree Designation

Drives Overall Quality Improvement Efforts

  • As a group, the Planetree Designated® Patient-Centered Hospitals exceed the national averages in each publicly reported HCAHPS category.  This performance level has been maintained in every quarter since HCAHPS public reporting began, demonstrating that comprehensive culture change is a viable solution for sustained HCAHPS success.
  • Designated Hospitals outperform national benchmarks on the CMS process of care core measures and have lower readmission rates.

Generates Momentum and Support:

  • Enhances the shared vision and strategic focus for employees
  • Creates a sense of accomplishment
  • Increases community, board and physician knowledge and support
  • Generates momentum and support to address long-standing issues
  • Provides the opportunity to benchmark an organization’s progress with other like-minded organizations
  • Offers exposure to evidence-based, person-centered practices
  • International recognition

Public relations and marketing value:

  • Use of exclusive designation logo
  • Recognition on The Joint Commission’s Quality Check web site

Recognition as a leader in the field:

  • Opportunity to participate in Distinction Program
  • Participation in Quarterly Designated Hospital Conference Calls

In Their Own Words: Patient and provider perspectives

“Something makes this place special. Having been to other places and countries, this place has a special character.”  (patient quote)

“[Designation] confirm[s] that we’re on the right track, but it’s mostly about progress toward a vision to make a difference for the people we work with and the people we serve.”  Marcia Hall, CEO, Sharp Coronado Hospital

“This process has really helped us identify ways that we could improve and helped motivate us to address them in a timely, practical, and efficient manner.” Bryan Payne, Planetree Coordinator, Kadlec Regional Medical Center

“…the components and designation criteria have given us a framework and helped to maintain momentum during time periods when other demands would have easily distracted us.”  (Planetree Coordinator)

The designation criteria give us a concrete plan and help keep us on track.”

Designation helps us insure that we’re committed to those values and philosophies.  It’s good to have an outside non-biased party keep that in front of you.”

Designation is setting us apart in an extremely competitive market. It has allowed us to keep that patient centered focus during financially challenging times and helped us maintain an excellent reputation in our community.”

Designation in the news

Sara Guastello . Planetree, May 2011 . Focus On Caregiving . Provider 

Susan B. Frampton, PhD, and Sara Guastello, Planetree . September 2010 . Patient-Centered Care: More than the Sum of Its Parts . AJN

Sara Guastello, Director of Designation and Resource Development, Planetree; Karin Jay, Senior Director of International Business Development, Planetree .November Issue | 27 October, 2011 . Planetree Designation: Defining and Measuring Patient-Centered Quality Worldwide . ISQUA

Susan B. Frampton, PhD, and Sara Guastello, Planetree . Vol 46 . No. 4 . Patient- Centered Care: more than the sum of it’s parts – Planetree’s patient centered hospital designation program


For more information

The detailed processes for achieving Planetree Designation are documented in the Designation Process Manual, available for purchase here.

Organizations interested in applying for designation should contact Sara Guastello, Director of Designation and Resource Development, at sguastello@planetree.org or (203) 732-7171.