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New York hospitals implement person-centered care practices, earn international recognition

St. John’s Episcopal Hospital and St. Barnabas Hospital recently earned Certification in Person-Centered Care from Planetree International with support from HANYS.


"People can feel the change.”

For Star Rivera and her team, that is the welcome result of a multi-year culture change journey. Rivera is the chief patient experience officer at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway, where staff have been implementing a care model that focuses on the needs and preferences of patients and their loved ones, of hospital staff and of the community.

“The person-centered model of care is incredibly important because it really focuses on delivering compassionate care and enhancing the experience for not just patients and family members, but also for our team members,” said Rivera. “We want you to know that you have a voice in decision-making for your healthcare and in improving the organization.”

St. John’s earned a Silver Certification for Excellence in Person-Centered Care from Planetree International in 2021 after participating in a multi-year HANYS-Planetree collaborative supported by the New York State Health Foundation. A global leader in person-centered care, Planetree has more than 40 years of experience working with healthcare organizations to implement the care model.

Over the course of nearly three years, HANYS and Planetree hosted in-person events, sponsored virtual education sessions, facilitated peer sharing and provided technical assistance and coaching to hospitals seeking to implement person-centered care practices.

The transformation at St. John’s has been noticed.

“Our patients and families say that they see our commitment to our community, they can see the improvements in how we deliver care, and they can feel that compassion coming through,” Rivera said.

St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx has also excelled in implementing person-centered care practices, earning a Bronze Certification from Planetree after participating in HANYS’ program.

“We wanted to ensure that our patients had not only the best quality of care, but also the best patient experience,” said Maureen Eisner, vice president of patient experience at SBH. “It’s so important how we communicate. We want to communicate with people in a compassionate and empathetic way.”

That empathy isn’t reserved solely for patients. Workshops, role-playing exercises and other activities helped interdisciplinary groups of staff improve how they relate to and support each other. Making the process fun and relatable bolstered staff interest and buy-in, which was essential to making positive, sustainable change to the hospital’s culture, Eisner said.

Providing support for pivotal change

The multi-year program was just one of many recent HANYS programs supporting member hospitals’ quality improvement efforts.

“We are very appreciative of our partnership with the New York State Health Foundation to advance person-centered care in New York and so proud of the achievements our member hospitals made over the past few years, particularly in the midst of this challenging pandemic,” said Kathy Rauch, vice president of HANYS’ Quality Advocacy, Research and Innovation division.

A recent report from HANYS outlines successful strategies used by St. John’s, SBH and others in the cohort, including:

  • formalizing an organizational commitment to person-centered care and made explicit connections to their existing work;
  • being open to finding opportunities for improvement;
  • understanding the needs of their patients and communities;
  • emphasizing staff wellness and empowerment; and
  • engaging with patients, families and frontline staff as true partners.

Rivera echoed those points in her advice to others pursuing person-centered excellence. “Come with an open mind, understand the culture of your organization and build on your strengths."

HANYS continues to provide educational programming and support focused on person-centered care to members through our Quality Advocacy, Research and Innovation division and our Eastern United States Quality Improvement Collaborative. We look forward to future partnerships with Planetree and the New York State Health Foundation.