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What Is Patient-Centered Care

What is patient-centered care? It’s a healthcare partnership that integrates patients’ values and preferences into clinical decisions to achieve physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and sometimes even financial wellness. Ultimately, the patient-centered care model creates a community of care that makes healing and learning less stressful, more effective, and more fulfilling for both patients and providers.

Elements of patient-centered care

The Institute of Medicine answered the question, “What is patient-centered care?” by defining the core elements of the care delivery model with “four C’s” of patient-centered care:

  • Culture

Respecting and integrating the preferences, values, cultural traditions, and socioeconomic conditions of your patients and their families is critical in this care model. This may require integrating family or community gatherings and complementary specialists into your patients’ care plans. Only this kind of open-minded collaboration can optimize wellness in those biological, cultural, spiritual beings that are your patients.

  • Care

Customizing your patient-centered care may require a shift in your care team’s mission, vision, values, leadership, and quality-improvement standards to align with patients’ needs, preferences, and values. As NEJM Catalyst confirms: “Applying the logic of mass customization to health care can yield substantial payoffs.”

Clinicians may need time to adapt to the value-based care model that rewards outcomes and wellness — not tests and procedures. Rather than focusing simply on clinical procedures and physical comfort, patient-centered care providers delve deeper to discover the emotional, spiritual, and social needs of every patient. Doing so will yield customized care plans and happier patients.

  • Communication

When patients feel supported by their clinicians with good communication, they will likely experience reduced symptoms and better outcomes. A series of studies reviewed in the Health Affairs Journal found that: “… patients who received adequate information on diagnosis and prognosis experienced better symptom relief and functional outcomes.”

In order to send and receive these communications in a timely, effective manner, healthcare professionals need a Care Management platform that’s accessible and easy to use for all stakeholders involved in any care plan.

  • Collaboration

What is patient-centered care if not a collaboration between patients, families, support groups, and an ever-widening spectrum of specialized care providers that are coordinated, accessible, and delivered at the right time and place? Holistic collaboration and respect for patient preferences optimize outcomes. Timely, effective collaboration requires health tech platforms that enable information to be sent to and from patients at the right time and place, in a manner that’s palatable to unique individuals — not just to “demographics.”

Examples of patient-centered care

This increasingly popular care model is being adopted in all healthcare settings to treat patients from a new perspective — one that personalizes the entire healthcare journey, as these common examples illustrate:

Personalized medicine

The days of automatically writing the same prescriptions for the same diagnoses are over. Patients’ genetics, metabolisms, biomarkers, immune systems, and other biological “signatures” are now assessed and considered in each care plan, and companion diagnostics are applied before a list of treatments and therapies is explored.

The Personalized Medicine Coalition describes the efficacy of molecular and genetic profiles that make certain patients susceptible to certain diseases; these profiles give clinicians the ability to predict which medical treatments will be safe and effective for each unique patient.

Personalized therapies have been diversifying for decades. In a clinical trial review involving thousands of patients, researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine reported that personalized medicine therapies using individual genetics to refine cancer treatment improved response and lengthened periods of disease remission.

Personalized doctor’s office visits

A successful and enjoyable office visit begins with building trust. Expressing genuine compassion, making eye contact, and listening actively can give you better insight into patients’ physical and mental states when diagnosing and treating them. After all, nobody knows their bodies better than they do. Centering your care around them may require referrals to new specialists, support groups, social groups, mental health providers, social workers, or even financial counselors.

According to research published by the National Institutes of Health, patients who choose and receive their preferred treatment experienced improved satisfaction, completion rates, and clinical outcomes compared to clients who did not receive their preferred treatment.

Patient-centered technology promotes the communication that enables these outcomes. An effective, easy-to-use Care Management platform stores and promotes the patient-provider and provider-provider communication required to deliver patient-centered care.

Personalized hospital stays

Strict hospital visiting hours and restrictions are outdated. Increasingly, patients want family members and trusted friends involved in their care — even if that means allowing them to sleep on the hospital room couch.

That’s why hospitals are being designed with homey environments and accommodations for family members who are encouraged to stay and keep patients company. Family and friends now present research to clinicians and participate in discussions about diagnoses and treatment options.

According to Healthcare Finance, designing around hospital environment metrics — like patient satisfaction, nurse walking distances, falls, and near-falls — improves outcomes, reduces costs, and improves a hospital’s Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores.

What caused the cultural shift to patient-centered care?

Like all value-based approaches, patient-centered care has redefined how providers, practices, and health systems design and manage care, as well as how they get reimbursed for it. If they’re going to be rewarded for better outcomes instead of more procedures, clinicians can no longer rely on traditional healthcare hierarchies that make them the lone authority.

When the entire hospital staff — from C-suite executives to parking valets — is engaged in patient satisfaction and outcomes, the organizational culture changes. That means hiring, training, leadership, and care team communication must change with it.

Patient-centered care is transforming the traditional role of patients from passive order-takers to engaged team members. One of the country’s leading proponents of patient-centered care, Dr. James Rickert, puts it this way: “We need to attempt to move from ‘what’s the matter with’ our patients to ‘what matters to’ our patients.”

Because patients know best which providers bring them the most satisfactory outcomes, more healthcare organizations are implementing patient satisfaction surveys, patient and family advisory councils, and focus group data to improve healthcare design, management, and delivery. As the popularity of patient- and family-centered health care increases, patients are becoming more engaged and satisfied.

As the patient-centered care delivery model becomes more popular, your care team members may become more curious and ask: “What is patient-centered care and what do we need to do to implement it?” We can help you explain.

Download our patient-centered care checklist and start anticipating better outcomes and greater satisfaction — for your patients and providers.

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