Planetree Alliance

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The Planetree Alliance is a nonprofit organization of hospitals and other health-care institutions dedicated to improving patient care through "patient-oriented" practices designed to make patients less intimidated by institutions and medical care.

The organization was founded in California in 1978 and later reorganized by (and put under the control of) Griffin Hospital, a nonprofit institution in Derby, Connecticut, where the Planetree Alliance is now based.

The group charges hospitals and other institutions fees to join and it has a policy of only allowing one hospital in a particular market to join. In addition to presenting itself as an altruistic organization, it promotes itself on its Web site as a tool hospitals can use to attract more patients.

As of early 2006, it cost a typical rural community hospital between $20,000 to $30,000 to join Planetree, with prices rising for larger hospitals. For extra services beyond a standard amount, hospitals pay more.[1]

The organization is named after the sycamore, or plane tree, that Hippocrates sat under when he taught medicine.[2]

See also: List of Planetree Alliance members

The Planetree philosophy

The Planetree Alliance has organized its ideas for improving patient care through a 10-part list of "Components":[3]

1. "Human Interactions"

Hospitals are encouraged to create cultures in which patients get "nurturing, compassionate, personalized care," their families, often with similar needs, are supported, and hospital staffs are supported and in turn are able to support patients and families. Retreats are often used to sensitize the staffs.

2. "Architectural & Interior Design Conducive to Health and Healing"

The design of healthcare institutions should "support patient dignity." Planetree facilities are encouraged to have non-institutional designs and homelike atmospheres and to eliminate "architectural barriers" which inhibit patient control and privacy or interfere with family participation.

3. "The Importance of the Nutritional and Nurturing Aspects of Food"

Serving nutritional and "nurturing" food ("The Importance of the Nutritional and Nurturing Aspects of Food")

Serving nutritional food, educating patients about cooking healthy food, putting kitchens on patient floors for patients, their families and volunteers to use. Cooking food, such as cookies, is sometimes "aromatherapy".

4. "Empowering Patients Through Information and Education"

Supporting patient education and participation in decisions about their treatment.

5. "The importance of Family, Friends, and Social Support" Helping families and friends to support patients. Some hospitals have volunteers who provide emotional support to patients, even in the operating room. Families are often given unrestricted visiting hours, even in the intensive care unit.

6. "Spirituality: The Importance of Inner Resources"

Chapels, gardens and meditation rooms are often made available for patients to have the opportunity to reflect and pray.

7. "The Importance of Human Touch"

In some Planetree hospitals, therapeutic full-body or chair massage is available for patients, families and staff

8. "Healing arts: Nutrition for the Soul"

Creating "an atmosphere of serenity and playfulness," sometimes with music, storytellers, clowns and funny movies, is a goal.

9. "Complementary Therapies"

Planetree hospitals often have such "Complimentary and alternative medical (CAM) therapy" available to patients as Planetree affiliates have instituted heart disease reversal programs, mind/body medicine interventions such as meditation and healing guided imagery, therapeutic massage, therapeutic touch, Reiki, acupuncture, Tai Chi and yoga.

10. "Healthy Communities"

Working with schools, senior centers, churches and other community partners, organizations are redefining health care to include the health and wellness of the larger community.


Planetree is said to be "probably" the oldest patient-oriented model for hospital reform in the nation. Some others are the Baptist Health-care Leadership Institute in Pensacola, Florida, Sage Consulting of Novato, California., and the American Hospital Association's Institute for Patient Care & Research in Washington, D.C. "Planetree is probably the mother of them all," or at least the most senior organization promoting patient-oriented changes in hospitals, said Rick Wade, a spokesman in the Washington, D.C., office of the American Hospital Association.[1]

Planetree was founded in 1978 by a patient, Angelica Thieriot. Her experience with hospitals gave her satisfaction with the technology of the institutions, but she was appalled by the lack of personalized care.[4]

Thieriot recruited Ryan Phelan to help start the organization. The two women met with hospital officials in the San Francisco area and decided that instead of trying to found their own hospital, they would try to convince an existing one to adopt their principles.[5]

The organization's first project was the Planetree Health Resource Center, a library adjacent to Pacific Presbyterian Hospital. The library offered medical texts and books on self-care.[5]

Pacific Presbyterian (which later merged with Children's Hospital to become California Pacific Medical Center) eventually agreed to open a 13-bed unit using Planetree's ideas, including giving patients access to their hospital records, open visiting hours and a kitchen available to family members for cooking. Patients had access to videotapes, a nutrition program and massage therapists along with material from the library.[5]

The organization's name and network of affiliations were bought in 1998 by Griffin Hospital, a nonprofit institution in Derby, Connecticut that was one of the hospitals already in the alliance.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 [1]Gurliacci, David, "The Hospitable Hospital", Fairfield County Business Journal, March 20, 2006, accessed September 30, 2006
  2. [2] (article for sale) Boute, Brenda J., "Anna Jaques aims to paper patients" article in The Boston Globe, August 10, 2003, accessed April 14, 2007: "the Planetree Alliance, named after the sycamore, or plane tree, that Hippocrates sat under when He taught medicine, has been around since 1978 [...]" quote seen free at Google News Archives search result page: [3]
  3. [4]Planetree Alliance Web site, Web page titled "Planetree Components" accessed September 17, 2006
  4. [5] Planetree Alliance Web site, Web page titled "Our Founder", accessed September 17, 2006
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 [6]Seligman, Katherine, The Social Entrepreneur: Ryan Phelan's controversial new venture is part of her quest to make life questions -- whether about our DNA or the species' existence -- easier for the rest of us January 8, 2006 SFGate Website of The San Francisco Chronicle, article reprinted on the Find Articles Web site

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