How to Become a Patient-Centered Care Provider

Follow these eight principles to become a more patient-centered care provider

Patient-centered care has become somewhat of a buzzword in medical circles, with the concept often taken center stage in discussions of the provision of high-quality healthcare.

However, an accurate description of patient-centered care and its provisions can be hard to come by. This is because some grey areas remain in even the most comprehensive of definitions.

In this article, we will be providing an introduction and general overview of the subject by examining the concept of patient-centered care and its fundamentals.

What Is Patient-Centered Care?

At its most basic level, patient-centered care is a collaborative effort between healthcare providers, patients, and their families to provide and manage a comprehensive care plan that is specific to a particular individual.

While an exact, all-encompassing, definition of patient-centered care is challenging to come by, most definitions have some elements in common. These elements include:

  • The healthcare provider’s mission statement and core values are aligned behind the concepts of providing patient-centered care.
  • The patient's family is encouraged to play a part in their care, and their attendance is facilitated.
  • Both the patient and their family are considered care providers and have a decision-making role at both patient and system level. Collaborative care is emphasized.
  • All treatment and medical information is shared promptly and thoroughly to allow patients and family members to make informed decisions.
  • The care provided does not just focus on physical health, but also physical comfort and mental wellbeing.
  • The care provided takes into account factors such as the patient’s unique combination of personal values, socioeconomic conditions, and religious or cultural traditions.

What Are the Benefits of Patient-Centered Care?

The primary benefit of provisioning patient-centered care is that it focuses the efforts of the healthcare provider on the individual, rather than the broader picture of the overall health of a population.

By treating each patient as an individual, with specific individual needs, healthcare providers are able to assess and overcome the traditional barriers to the provision of high-quality healthcare.

Tailored healthcare plans that include the patient and their family in the decision-making process lead to greater levels of satisfaction among patients.

As a rule, patient satisfaction increases in proportion to the extent that a healthcare provider exceeds the patient’s expectations of care. Since those expectations are a crucial driver in the provision of patient-centered care, the patient's needs are always being acknowledged and met, massively increasing their overall satisfaction.

Improved patient satisfaction has the knock-on effect of improving morale and productivity amongst staff and enhancing the healthcare provider's reputation.

Where healthcare providers focus on the quality improvement measures associated with patient-specific care, staff generally experience higher levels of job satisfaction and lower levels of turnover or burnout.

Patient-centered care also reduces overall costs through the elimination of unnecessary testing and treatment. Since those receiving patient-centered care are also less likely to visit an Emergency Room (ER) or be admitted to a hospital, it also reduces the pressure on the healthcare system as a whole.

What Are the Principles of Patient-Centered Care?

While the exact principles of patient-centered care may change from provider to provider, the Harvard Medical School has isolated eight primary dimensions associated with patient-specific care on behalf of Picker Institute.

Access to Care

Where care is needed, patients should be able to access it with ease. For healthcare providers, this means arranging accessible transportation and treatment locations, greater simplicity in scheduling appointments, greater appointment availability, and access to specialists and services.

Care Coordination

Effective coordination of care at the front-line, clinical, and ancillary and support levels allows patients to reduce the feeling of vulnerability and powerless associated with accident and illness.

Information and Education

By keeping patients and their families informed about their condition or prognosis, healthcare providers can increase patient satisfaction and give them and their families the information needed to play a part in the decision-making process.

Physical Comfort

Often overlooked in traditional healthcare, in patient-centered care, the physical comfort of the patient is assessed through three main factors.

These factors are pain management, assistance with daily living needs, and the patient's surroundings and environment.

Mental Wellbeing

Injury and illness take a mental as well as physical toll on patients. As part of patient-centered care, factors such as anxiety of the impact of an illness or injury, the patient’s treatment and prognosis, and the financial implications of that treatment are taking into consideration.

Family and Friends

The presence of family and friends is often strictly regulated in traditional healthcare settings. With patient-centered care, family participation is actively encouraged and facilitated. Family members are recognized as caregivers and involved in the decision-making process.

Continuity and Transition

As part of meeting the patient’s needs after discharge, patient-centered care focuses on providing a detailed plan of ongoing treatment, detailed information on specifics and impact of that treatment plan, and access to clinical, social, physical, and financial support on an ongoing basis.

Transitioning to Patient-Centered Care

Adopting patient-centered care represents a significant shift in the way we approach healthcare and would require a change in how healthcare provers and health systems are designed and operated.

Patients and their families would also have to adapt to a new healthcare paradigm in which they have an active role as decision-makers as opposed to passive bystanders.

However, the benefits of a switch to patient-centered care are apparent. Overall, patient-centered care improves patient satisfaction, improves staff morale, reduces both staff turnover and costs for providers, and decreases the number of patients being admitted to hospitals and ERs.