Keynote speakers included Nancy Frates, mother of Peter Frates, a patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, whose “ice bucket challenge” concept has helped raise some $220 million to fight the disease, and global mental health specialist Vikram Patel, who noted how his mother had multiple chronic health conditions and was cared for by his father, who himself grew ill while no one seemed to notice.

While giving a talk on reducing readmission rates, Mary Cruz, of the Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center near San Diego, referenced her mother’s experience of going in and out of hospitals during the last two years of her life.

Cruz also referenced her title, “community and multicultural relations manager,” and noted there is “nothing clinical in there.”

Indeed, while many clinicians attended and presented at the meeting, the focus of the event was squarely on how to put patients at the center of their care and the importance of doing so. About 700 people from more than 20 countries attended the event from Oct. 31 to Wednesday in Chicago, with the Cubs’ first World Series victory in 108 years providing a festive, historical backdrop to the proceedings.

An international perspective was provided by speakers and attendees alike. Christine Laerke Witzke told how the Planetree model of patient-centered care was implemented at a hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark. The effort was highly successful, with patients noting how they were appreciative of being part of their care decision-making process. Staff said they believed their work was appreciated by their managers. But, before they could celebrate too much, it was learned that patients were no longer satisfied with the food they were being served.

Heidi Solheim, director of community relations for the Waverly Health Center, a 45-bed critical access hospital in northeast Iowa, gave advice on how to recruit people to serve on patent advisory councils.

Solheim talked about how these volunteers have helped improve clinical navigation and how they served on a Plain Language Committee that rewrites educational materials and generally helps improve the overall patient experience.

But she also spoke of the need to have a process in place that ensures patients don’t serve too long on such councils.

“After serving two (two-year) terms, they have to take a break,” Solheim said. “Otherwise, they start thinking like us.”