Developing a patient-centered practice is incredibly beneficial to those involved. It empowers patients, facilitates education and communication, and forges trusting relationships between a diverse set of caregivers, patients, and families.
Ultimately, the patient-centered care model creates a community of patient care and patient advocacy that makes healing and learning less stressful, more effective, and more fulfilling for both patients and providers.
Here are nine steps to enjoy the rewards of this increasingly popular approach to healthcare:
1. Prepare your care team
Guidelines from National Institutes of Health stress the importance of clinicians’ psychological traits and communication skills for a successful patient-centered practice and valuable patient support. Recruiting motivated, empathic, respectful, open-minded, and active listeners will set you up for improved outcomes. A willingness to pursue professional development is also a prerequisite.
Science Direct researchers have outlined five critical perspectives that make a patient-centered practice successful:
- Biopsychosocial perspective: looking beyond disease states to treat the whole psychological, emotional, social being that is your patient
- Patient-as-person perspective: understanding a patient’s illness within their life context
- Power-and-responsibility-sharing perspective: egalitarian clinician-patient relationship
- Therapeutic alliance perspective: empathy, congruence, and unconditional respect
- Doctor-as-person perspective: patients viewing clinicians as humans
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, running a patient-centered practice is considered the right thing to do and is justified on moral grounds. Patient-centered attitudes yield better care outcomes by improving relationships, patient satisfaction, treatment, and adherence.
2. Collaborate with a variety of providers
A wealth of research shows that the need for effective teams and patient advocacy is increasing, whether it’s in surgery, administration, or even housestaff. Practicing in isolation may even put patients at risk. Healthcare providers are rapidly transitioning from being solo practitioners to collaborating with multiple care teams on a common goal — one that is achieved in different ways for different patients.
Because stress has been shown to cause or exacerbate so many major conditions, reducing it for your patients — and your team — is critical for successful Care Management.
From combating alcohol misuse with yoga to complementing conventional cancer care with acupuncture, a patient-centered practice requires acceptance of patients’ evidence-based treatment preferences and collaborations.
Johns Hopkins’ Integrative Medicine site lists popular evidence-based integrative treatments — 53% of physicians recommended at least one to their patients in 2020. Be prepared to welcome these complementary providers into your care team and your patient’s family.
3. Communicate clearly and regularly
Patients can become anxious when Care Management seems sporadic and communication is disjointed. If one clinician fails to read the notes of the last peer who saw the patient and repeats stress-inducing questions that were answered just hours ago, patients can feel like nobody is listening. Clear and accurate communication supports the patient and builds trust.
Instead of breeding anxiety and distrust, shower your patients with helpful information — if relevant, reference previous visits, treatments, and clinician assessments so that care is always moving forward. Show that Care Management is not black and white, but rather tailored to fit and support your patients individually.
To develop a patient-centered practice, use next-generation technology to send reminders, schedule appointments, ask questions, extend patient support, and review patients’ research when they send it to you.
Nearly every patient you treat will have a preferred communication method with which to stay in touch with your team. Make sure your Care Management platform connects with the devices they choose, and also to software or hardware like apps, remote glucose and blood pressure monitors, respiratory assist devices, and musculoskeletal movement trackers to better track outcomes.
4. Nurture patients’ emotional needs
During international focus groups, patients reported feeling powerless about their condition because their clinician did not fully inform them about it. This weakens trust and burdens patients with indecision. The more they know, the more empowered they become. Good patient care goes beyond diagnosis and prescribed treatments — it requires patient support, advocacy, and empathy.
Patients who receive a diagnosis are often confronted with an emotional burden when attempting to navigate their next steps and treatment options. They may be suffering from fear and anxiety over what comes next — their treatment, the impact their illness will have on them physically as well as on their loved ones, and the potential financial burden of their prognosis. Emotional well-being plays an important role in patient care and setting patients up for true health success.
By focusing on patient support through patient-centered care, clinicians can help their patients through their health journey and alleviate their fears and anxieties. Taking the time to increase patient health literacy, answer questions, and demonstrate that their health journey is important allows patients to confidently trust their providers and the care plan created for them.
The AMA Journal of Ethics found that patients who are engaged in their care and decision-making enjoy better outcomes and incur lower costs. Clinicians also reported that working in a patient-centered practice enabled them to bond with patients and enjoy coming to work.
5. Make your patients’ inner circles part of your team
Numerous studies have demonstrated that the presence of loved ones helps patients heal. Humans are social creatures who need the constant support and advocacy of loved ones and friends. Just as your clinicians go back to nurturing homes after a difficult day, their patients also need help creating those “emotional homes” in the clinical setting.
Train your team to provide accommodations for patients’ families and friends, then involve them in decision-making. If you notice that a spouse or friend is your patient’s most trusted source of research, respect them and listen. Recognize the needs of your patient’s inner circle and support them.
In a study on treatment-related decision making in lung cancer patients conducted by Dr. Laura Siminoff at Virginia Commonwealth University, 58% of caregivers were the patients’ spouse, and 42% were a child, parent, or significant other. This same study notes that 17% of those lung cancer patients decided to change their provider during their treatment due to family persuasion. Patient support is more successful when it includes a patient’s support system. Respecting and involving a patient’s loved one in the treatment process can help the patient better engage, heal, and foster a successful health journey built on trust.
6. Make care as accessible as possible
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that your patients will not always be able to come to you — but that doesn’t mean you can’t make yourself accessible to them.
A recent Updox survey found that 51% of respondents would continue using telehealth for the convenience it offers.
Providing the services patients demand requires super-efficient care coordination between a wide range of primary care providers and specialists. Research well before choosing a Care Management platform to coordinate clinical care, front-line care, as well as ancillary and patient support services.
7. Educate patients on their treatment
Your patients have varying degrees of education and scientific curiosity about their conditions. Some may not think they want to know details, but showing them how understanding their bodies empowers them to partner with you can inspire self-care.
Watch a video with them or share a case study that gives them proof that recovery is possible. Be accessible and approachable — make sure they know there is no such thing as a stupid question. Patient advocacy and support means making sure a patient feels heard and has a full understanding of their diagnosis and treatment plan.
On the opposite extreme, you may have patients who have spent years researching their condition and a spectrum of treatments. Hear them out. Maintain your professional curiosity — it may inspire a discovery and professional development journey. A patient-centered care practice is an ever-evolving and progressive practice.
8. Integrate patient preferences and values
Duke University Health Systems found that patients feel empowered when they choose treatments that align with their values and philosophies. They believe it’s logical to incorporate the widest array of evidence-based approaches possible, including immersion programs and integrative therapies with specialists and coaches who share their values.
When you implement patient advocacy and respect their needs, you empower your patients and gain their trust — this will make your patient-centered care plan much easier to implement, more effective, and ultimately, more enjoyable.
9. Leverage a care management platform
A successful patient-centered practice must be accessible for patients, adjust to their needs, and deliver the right care at the right time.
Patients have preferences for their digital information as well — where they want to communicate and how they want to track and send information is a key part of shifting the focus back onto their needs.
Integrating all this data into a highly secure Care Management platform that’s designed for patient-centered care is critical. Make sure to choose a solution that features:
Automation is a key component of time management and team efficiency. By automating workflows, care teams can bring their focus back to patient care. Building unique processes and escalations based on outcomes or conditions supports efficiency by helping you move patients through their care plan. Lighten task loads and allow your team to do what they do best — care. Automated processes can effectively eliminate human error.
Simplify patient communications and increase patient support through centralized conversations. Care Management platforms should include omnichannel capabilities that streamline all check-ins and messages to one convenient dashboard. Care teams never miss a beat when they utilize multi-channel means of communication — secure and HIPAA-compliant email service, phone, HIPAA-compliant Zoom telehealth integration, SMS, chat, and fax.
Built-in integrations create a personalized experience that works with your systems. With your most-used applications already built in, codeless customization allows your patient-centered Care Management platform to grow along with your practice.
To create an extensible environment, your Care Management system should include native integrations for things like eSign, MedRec, eRx, Zoom, communication, and more.
Your ideal platform should allow you to:
- Automate processes and consolidate the number of tools you use so your care team can spend more quality time with patients.
- Track the performance of your program(s) to make data-driven decisions that allow you to continuously deliver the right patient care at the right time.
- Make your workload easier by getting a more holistic view of each patient — house all content, communications, and data in one place.
- Design your patient care plan without the need for developers, engineers, or specialists so you can focus on your care.
- Get the entire story of each person’s journey, including their assessment scores, needs, and communications, in a centralized patient profile.
- Personalize contact methods to support patient preferences and strengthen relationships.
Want to know where to start?
Download our Patient-Centered Care Checklist.