Key takeaways from this story:

Asking patients “What matters to you?” encourages meaningful conversations and helps ensure care is aligned with patient priorities, leading to better health outcomes. Vancouver Coastal Health’s RPACE team partnered with the Vancouver General Hospital Renal Program to incorporate this question into care, resulting in better tailored care and increased staff engagement.

A pilot project by the RPACE team shows the benefits of asking patients and staff what matters to them

Patients at Vancouver Coastal Health’s (VCH) kidney care clinic and the health professionals who care for them are both benefiting from one simple question: “What matters to you?”


We love sharing stories which were started by asking “What matters to you?” because stories are powerful and context matters! As the International “What Matters to You?” Day approaches June 6, we are celebrating the great work happening with VCH’s Regional Palliative Approach to Care Education (RPACE) team, who are embedding these conversations into everyday care.

“What Matters to You?” encourages meaningful conversations between patients, caregivers, families and their health care providers. It helps ensure care is aligned with patient priorities – and supports the right care at the right time, which can improve health outcomes.

The RPACE team partnered with the Vancouver General Hospital Renal Program on a 10-month pilot project over 2022-2023 in the Kidney Care Clinic. They put “What Matters to You?” conversations to the test by incorporating questions into multidisciplinary assessment forms, routine workflows, patient questionnaires, and exam room posters. They identified four key elements that a What Matters conversation could address: checking what the patient understands about their illness and their treatment options, learning about the patient’s priorities and wishes if their health worsens, asking about their fears and worries about their health, and encouraging and supporting patients to talk openly with their loved ones about their wishes. They also increased the documentation of these conversations so that What Matters to patients could be shared with other care providers outside the kidney clinic.

All in all, the RPACE team and the Renal team recognized that by asking patients What Matters and clarifying their understanding of their illness, care could truly be tailored to their needs, and that there was a greater likelihood of success in managing their kidney disease and delaying its progression.


Then, the RPACE team took the pilot project one step further. To increase staff engagement and find ways to prevent burnout, RPACE also asked the Renal team what mattered to them. Each interdisciplinary team member was asked to write down what was important to them at work and completed entries were placed outside the staff room. This simple activity provided insight into the culture and values of the team, including how learning could be supported, and shone a light on the ways staff could feel seen and heard throughout the pilot project. Most importantly, it gave the team an opportunity to share their perspectives, acknowledge ways they could support one another at work, and fostered a sense of being “in this together.”

The Institute for Health Care Improvement also highlights how asking “What Matters to You?” at an organizational level can help determine what gives staff the most satisfaction in their work, leading to better engagement and increasing joy in work.

Thank you to VCH’s RPACE team and all of the staff involved in this project for being great champions of “What Matters to You?”