Patient-Centered Care: A Definitive Guide
Patient-centered care respects and integrates a patient’s values, preferences, and goals into clinical decision-making and outcome assessments. This partnership between caregiver and patient addresses the physical, mental, spiritual, and social determinants of a patient’s health to achieve better outcomes.
The New England of Medicine reports that successful patient-centered care entails:
- Shared decision-making: giving patients, patients’ families, and caretakers a say in care plan decisions and giving them time to research before making those decisions.
- Customized care: treating each patient as a unique individual who deserves to choose from multiple diagnostic and treatment options.
- Information sharing: presenting each patient with all the observations and data the care team has gathered, as well as the latest relevant condition and treatment research.
Achieving these objectives requires a shift of perspective on patients. Once your care team adopts administrative software that eliminates tool fatigue, they’ll have the time and energy to implement those new perspectives into their ideal patient-centered care.
Benefits of patient-centered care
The benefits of patient-centered care, such as better outcomes and higher rates of patient engagement and satisfaction, allow both the caregiver and the patient’s goals to be met. Here are the evidence-based benefits of this increasingly popular care model:
Decades of research have demonstrated that when patient values and preferences are prioritized, they engage more in treatments, leading to better health outcomes. Hospitals and practices that implement patient-centered care report:
- Lower ER visit rates.
- Faster recovery.
- Decreased utilization of healthcare resources.
- Increased patient, family, and care team satisfaction.
- Improved health outcomes.
Improved patient satisfaction
Patient satisfaction corresponds with how well a healthcare service aligns with a patient’s expectation of care. Patient-centered care helps increase patient satisfaction rates by taking their personal health goals and desires into consideration and involving them in their own treatment along the way.
With shared decision-making, a patient’s active participation drives the care plan and gives clinicians a very clear idea of how to exceed their expectations. This, in turn, significantly improves patient satisfaction rates.
Improved reputation for your organization
Thanks to online reviews and social media, it’s easier than ever for your patients to discover your reputation. Healthcare professionals cannot view patients merely as individuals seeking treatment for one condition—patients are healthcare consumers expecting the exceptional benefits of genuinely patient-centered care.
One study conducted in Spain revealed that a healthcare organization’s social reputation and how patients—and relatives of patients—perceived patient safety at its facilities were directly correlated. In other words, the patient perception that the hospital was a safe clinical environment that committed very few errors was a key component of that facility’s positive reputation.
With patient-centered care models, shared decision-making between the patient and their care team ensures that the patient feels they are being taken care of properly and that all safety precautions have been implemented.
Better job satisfaction for staff
One of the many benefits of patient-centered care is higher staff morale and job satisfaction for care providers. Most healthcare professionals go into the field because they are sincerely passionate about helping people. When clinicians feel like they work at a healthcare organization that focuses on patient-specific needs—more specifically, one that implements quality improvement measures—they are more likely to feel satisfied with their job and less likely to experience burnout.
How to practice patient-centered care
Most health care providers can define patient-centered care accurately. Successfully implementing this patient care model, however, requires extensive training on best practices that can be enabled with the right digital tools.
To make healthcare safer, more accessible, more equitable, and more affordable, and to allow patients, caregivers, clinicians, employers, and insurers to make informed healthcare decisions, researchers have standardized a set of evidence-based best practices:
Best practices for implementing patient-centered care encompass the patient’s family members, which research shows significantly improves patient outcomes. To promote ideal patient care, follow these evidence-based directives:
Make healthcare accessible
You can’t implement patient-centered care if the people who need it can’t locate or travel to your office, clinic, or hospital. To get ambulatory service, your future patients must know about your facility and the transportation options available to reach it.
To work around their routine and work schedules, you must also offer a wealth of appointments, which should be quick and easy to schedule. You should also make sure the referrals you provide to accessible specialists are clear and easy to follow.
Respect patients’ values, needs, and preferences
Set aside what you may have learned in medical school and open your mind to the continually evolving integrative health care landscape your patients live and work in. If they’ve researched and successfully applied botanical medicine in the past, integrate it into your medical care plan. If your patient’s family has been traumatized by the opioid crisis and they prefer pain management via acupuncture, follow their lead. If their religious or cultural values promote or reject certain treatments, respect that fact.
Focus groups at the aforementioned research centers have documented how illness-caused vulnerability makes patients feel powerless. You can empower them by actively participating in and fully understanding their care plan. When you coordinate front-line patient care, clinical care, ancillary care, and support services, be flexible. Follow up to ensure each clinician is informed about each step in the patient’s care plan.
Inform and educate your patients
Curious, intelligent patients often feel their providers patronize and condescend when informing them about their condition, prognosis, or treatment. Not telling them all the details can cause patients to become suspicious, angry, and bitter. They may lack the motivation to follow your care plan if they fear you don’t truly care about or respect them.
You can easily counter this fear by providing thorough but easy-to-read information
on their clinical status, progress and prognosis, care processes, and autonomous self-care. People who feel they’re in control of their healthcare tend to take control of their healthcare.
Provide emotional and physical comfort
Ideal patient care requires acute attention to the healthcare environment. If your office, clinic, or hospital is sterile, cold, cluttered, fluorescently lit, or garishly and uncomfortably furnished, it can negatively impact mood and even induce anxiety.
Once they’re physically comfortable and calm, your patients may be more likely to discuss their take on pain management and disclose their need for assistance with daily activities. Listen and resolve any issues immediately before their trust wanes. If you comfort and reassure them, they’ll trust you. Why is reassurance important in health and social care? If patients aren’t confident you have their best interests at heart, they’ll turn elsewhere—and walk away from an optimal health outcome.
Once you’ve made your environment warm and inviting and managed your patients’ physical pain, make sure to address any internally generated anxiety their status, prognosis, or treatment is causing—it often affects them more than the diagnosed physical condition. Finances are a huge source of anxiety that can be reduced with a bit of research and budgeting.
Involve family and friends
You can dramatically improve the patient experience by accommodating family and close friends at your facility. Involve them in your decision-making if you see they are your patient’s deeply trusted advocates. Make sure you explain your patient-centered care plan to all of them so they can participate and ensure consistency.
Provide any logistical resources or emotional support needed to caregivers, who so often experience burnout and health issues. Demonstrate that you recognize their needs and are available to act as their trusted consultant and supporter.
Ensure continuity of care
Patient-centered care does not end when the patient leaves your clinic or hospital room. Make sure the patient’s family and caretakers are fully vested in your care plan and understand the patient’s physical limitations, dietary requirements, and medication schedules. Help them coordinate ongoing treatments and ensure they’re informed about access to physical, financial, clinical, and social support.
Nurses often provide the first touchpoint with patients to set the stage for these new expectations. What is patient-centered care in nursing, and how can it be implemented? According to the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, effective patient-centered care practices require consistent communication, shared decision-making, and dedicated patient education—which is often first introduced to patients by nurses.
How can you measure the results of patient-centered care?
The first standardized survey in the U.S. is the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey (CAHPS®). This data collection tool was developed by The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). It measures patient experience by asking discharged patients whether they got the care they needed quickly enough and whether they enjoyed thorough, compassionate communication with doctors, care providers, and customer service representatives.
These ratings are critical to the health of your practice. They can help your healthcare teams hone their patient-centered care plans, as well as their electronic health records management and advanced-access scheduling. These improvements will require studying successful patient-focused care examples and investing in Care Management software that allows your team to focus on care.
Patient-centered care: what does it take?
According to the American Psychological Association, the concept of patient-centered care is easier to describe than it is to execute. It takes patience, humble curiosity, and most importantly, compassion.
Stepping into your patient’s shoes lets you release absolute control over the situation and genuinely value their contributions. It will help you master and enjoy patient-centered communication. When you really listen to their reasons, motives, and fears, and trust their instincts, you’ll be practicing patient-centered care.
The leaders of today’s patient-centered care movement consider it a moral obligation to honor the wishes of their patients and their patients’ families before sharing a diagnosis or recommending a treatment. The Annals of Family Medicine describes physicians’ initial concerns about patient-centered care, because: “its focus on individual needs might be at odds with an evidence-based approach, which tends to focus on populations.”
After observing positive patient outcomes for decades, however, they’ve understood that their approach to a patient’s values and needs can either enhance or delay healing. They’ve understood that healing is a science and an art.
How patient-centered care will help your care team thrive
Despite its name, patient-centered care offers just as many benefits for providers. This holistic healthcare approach will help your care team:
Improve patient outcomes
According to the National Institutes of Health achieving patient satisfaction requires adopting a new attitude, which affects patient outcomes.
Though patient loyalty is an elusive goal and patient satisfaction an indirect indicator of clinician performance, they are always strong motivators for your care team. Delivery of patient-focused care requires that we deliver care holistically and compassionately for every patient, every time.
Reduce expenses and total cost of care
Research conducted by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield in 2014 revealed that patients who participated in patient-centered programs had a 9% lower total cost than those who participated in traditional fee-for-service care models. Patients who received patient-centered care were also 8% less likely to be admitted to a hospital and 5% less likely to end up in the emergency room.
When a healthcare organization identifies what an individual patient needs, it can eliminate needlessly expensive tests, reduce hospital admission rates, and reduce ER visits—all of which lower the total cost of patient care.
The International Journal for Quality in Healthcare has identified how streamlined communication helps foster consistency, building trust and enhancing your reputation. This process improvement requires:
- Engaging patients and families throughout the organization.
- Consistently measuring patient feedback.
- Redesigning care delivery based on that feedback.
- Incentivizing staff accountability.
- Encouraging education and change.
Clinicians reported that the amount of time it took to make the provider-focus to patient-focus shift was the biggest impediment to transforming their culture.
Boost staff satisfaction
For the last few decades, policy-makers, health care organizations, and patient advocates have been more focused on studying the effects of patient-centered care on patient—not provider—satisfaction. Recently, The National Institutes of Health found that clinicians who reported successful patient-centered care in their facilities were more likely to have higher morale, less burnout, and greater job satisfaction. Both providers and support staff thrive in a more efficient, satisfying work environment.
Streamline resource allocation
Transforming a healthcare system into a patient-centered healthcare hub is not easy, but once accomplished, the transition enables your care team to more efficiently allocate resources.
Rather than spending time and energy proposing and implementing diagnoses and treatments that patients will reject or ignore, you can work with them to find an option that makes sense to them.
Don’t just reprocess visit reports and test results every time a patient needs to see a new specialist with a different perspective, patient-centered care lays out a holistic care plan in collaboration with all parties from the start.
Instead of spending a large portion of your budget on various platforms and Care Management tools, prioritizing the patient requires software that streamlines your workflow to maximize time and energy spent on the patient—not data processing. When you reduce “click fatigue,” you conserve your most precious resource: clinician energy and focus.
Reduce care costs
Holistic, preventive, patient-focused care models aim to prevent disease rather than treat it once it’s reached more dangerous and expensive stages.
A study conducted by The Primary Care Collaborative compared patient-centered practices with traditional practices. Not only did the patient-centered providers achieve higher improvement in diabetes control and screenings of colorectal and breast cancer, their costs were lower for
- hospital admissions: 8% lower
- emergency room visits: 5% lower
- total cost of care: 9% lower
When health insurance companies reward physicians for meeting clinical, efficiency, and patient satisfaction benchmarks, everybody cuts costs.
How Care Management software enables patient-centered care
Efficiency is every care team’s goal, but it must be balanced with patient-centered care objectives. Choosing the right technology can help you implement this care model more effectively by streamlining provider-provider and patient-provider communication and enhancing relationships.
Efficient and effective communication is vital to gain patient trust, gather data, and support patients emotionally. Stressed out clinicians find it difficult to prioritize proper communication when juggling administrative tasks with tightly scheduled patient appointments and touchpoints between appointments.
It helps to implement closed-loop communication. As it initially did for the U.S. military, this practice confirms that senders and recipients receive and understand messages to avoid errors, misunderstandings, and false assumptions. Achieving successful closed-loop communication requires next-generation digital healthcare technology programs.
Electronic health records and Care Management platforms help streamline patient-provider communication by providing each clinician with all patient data—from the first care plan touchpoint to the last. When choosing your Care Management platform, make sure it features:
- Easy program design: Many Care Management platforms are designed with the assumption that you have a developer on staff. If you don’t, go with a solution where your team can configure or modify programs without hiring engineers or developers.
- Integrations: Choose tools that allow your team to automate actions, set preferences, and create workflows for your unique environment; make sure they work with your existing and future health systems.
- High security: Make sure your chosen platform is compliant with healthcare security standards.
- Team-first care delivery: Automated assessments and reminders for clinicians, coaches, and patients will help your team deliver the right care at the right time.
- Intelligent workflows: Always test-run any platform you’re considering to see how easily it allows your team to adjust to patient needs.
- Centralized communications: Make sure your chosen program makes communication simple and intuitive for patients, while enabling clinicians quick and easy management of patient data across teams and facilities.
Simplify patient-centered care
Deciding to implement patient-centered care is a big decision and generating results takes time. Improve your care team’s job satisfaction, promote ideal patient care, and attract new patients by designing a holistic, patient-centered, software-enabled care plan. Then, enjoy the benefits.
To learn more about improving patient-centered care, read our ebook: How to Create Amazing Patient Experiences.