What is patient-centered care, and why is it important?
Healthcare delivery is generally viewed as an activity in which the patient has very little input aside from informing the healthcare professionals of his or her symptoms. Healthcare professionals are then expected to apply their skills and knowledge to achieve the desired outcomes.
However, deeper research into the external factors that affect our physical and mental health has revealed that actively taking cognizance of the non-physiological factors that affect health results in better patient outcomes. This led to the development and promotion of a new approach to healthcare delivery, referred to as patient-centered care. This blog post will explore what patient-centered care means, its fundamental elements, and why it is important.
What is patient-centered care?
Patient-centered care is a concept of healthcare delivery that focuses on the individual’s specific health needs and the desired outcomes rather than on the medical techniques to make healthcare decisions. In this system of care, patients are actively involved in their healthcare and have a shared responsibility with their healthcare providers. Treatment is offered not just from a clinical perspective but also from emotional, mental, spiritual, social, and even financial perspectives.
Elements of patient-centered care
Certain fundamental principles serve as a guide in the delivery of patient-centered care. They include:
- Active collaboration and shared decision-making
Healthcare professionals and patients work together to develop the best possible treatment plan. This involves discussing and considering the various options available, weighing their potential benefits and risks, and considering the patient’s preferences, history, and values.
- Individualized care
Each person has different health needs, goals, and experiences. Patient-centered care involves tailoring treatment and healthcare management plans to each person’s unique needs. This includes addressing cultural and linguistic differences, as well as accommodating disabilities.
- Respect for patient’s preferences and values
Patient-centered care puts importance on understanding the individual’s preferences, beliefs, and values in relation to their health. This also includes respecting their right to privacy and confidentiality in their healthcare information and decisions.
- Coordination and integration of care
Patient-centered care focuses on coordinating all aspects of the patient’s healthcare, including their medications and appointments with different specialists, as well as integrating mental, emotional, and physical healthcare. The goal is to ensure that all the healthcare professionals involved in the patient’s care are on the same page and working toward common goals.
- Comprehensive healthcare
Patient-centered care involves addressing not just the immediate medical issues but also the overall health and well-being of the individual. This includes promoting healthy behaviors, supporting chronic disease management, and offering emotional and mental healthcare.
- Patient’s relatives’ involvement
Family members and significant others are often important sources of support for the patient. Patient-centered care involves them in the healthcare process and encourages educating and supporting them to help manage the patient’s condition better.
- Information sharing
Patient-centered care involves providing information and education to the patient about their health condition, potential treatment options, self-care, and preventive measures. This allows patients to make informed decisions and actively participate in their healthcare.
Benefits of patient-centered care
The traditional approach to healthcare delivery has often resulted in fragmented, disjointed patient care. This can lead to ineffective treatment and even harmful medical errors. Adopting a patient-centered approach helps to address these issues and improve overall healthcare outcomes. Some specific benefits include the following:
- Improved communication
Active collaboration and shared decision-making in patient-centered care lead to better communication between patients and healthcare professionals. This can result in more informed treatment decisions and improved adherence to medication and management plans.
- Better health outcomes
Patient-centered care has led to better health outcomes, including improved blood sugar control in people with diabetes and better management of chronic pain. It can also result in increased patient satisfaction and lower healthcare costs. While patient-centered care is beneficial for all patients, it can be especially beneficial for international patients. This is because it takes into account the unique cultural and linguistic differences of each individual, as well as their physical and mental health needs.
- Greater patient satisfaction
Patient-centered care involves respecting the individual’s preferences and values and involving them in their healthcare decisions. This can lead to greater satisfaction with the healthcare experience.
How to promote patient-centered care
According to the Commonwealth Fund 2003 National Survey of Physicians and Quality of Care, one-fourth of primary care physicians currently incorporate these various patient-centered attributes in their practices. Healthcare organizations can promote a shift toward more patient-centered care through various measures, such as:
- Education and training
Providing education and training for healthcare professionals on patient-centered care principles and approaches will allow them to adopt the principles of patient-centered care in their practice of medicine. Patient-centered care should become a part of the training offered to healthcare professionals, especially for those transitioning from non-nursing backgrounds. The non nursing degree to BSN online program available at Baylor University provides an opportunity to align already learned skills and knowledge to a career in nursing.
- Encourage participation
Allowing patients and their families to know they have the right to make their input in the decision-making process can encourage the adoption of patient-centered care. Patients who have received this type of care are also likely to become advocates of the concept, demanding it elsewhere and promoting it.
- Implementing systems for coordinating and integrating care
Having systems in place for coordinating and integrating care can improve communication and collaboration among healthcare professionals, leading to better patient-centered care. This can involve implementing electronic health records and having regular meetings to discuss a care plan for a particular patient. On a larger scale, it can involve implementing laws and policies to support patient-centered care and reduce the burden of liability on a health professional that chooses to respect the patient’s wishes regarding their health.
- Assessment and feedback
Regularly assessing the level of patient-centered care being provided and gathering feedback from patients can help identify areas for improvement. This can involve conducting surveys, focus groups, or one-on-one interviews with patients.
Another way to promote patient-centered care is to create awareness, especially among members of the public, on what patient-centered care entails and how they can practice it alongside their health practitioners.
A shift toward more patient-centered care involves changing healthcare professionals’ attitudes and approaches to medicine. Healthcare professionals need to remember that at the heart of patient-centered care is valuing the individual and their unique needs and preferences in healthcare. This can lead to better communication, collaboration, and, ultimately, improved health outcomes for the patient.