We (healthcare professionals) have all heard it before – patient-centred care. That phrase is used so extensively in the healthcare industry that it is nearly impossible for you to not have come across it. We either have heard it in healthcare administrators’ speeches, read it in hospitals’ annual reports, or seen it splashed generously on hospitals’ client charters. But what is patient-centred care? More importantly, do we practice it in our daily clinical encounters with our patients?
What is Patient-Centred Care?
There are so many definitions of patient-centred care out there. Try googling it and you’ll know what I mean. Basically, patient-centred care means delivering care to patients with dignity, respect and compassion while being responsive to their preferences, needs and values which then guide all clinical decisions. Patient-centred care is also called person-centred care.
Elements of Patient-Centred Care
Researchers from Harvard Medical School, on behalf of the Picker Institute and The Commonwealth Fund, had defined eight important elements that make up patient-centred care. The aptly named Picker’s Eight Principles of Patient-Centered Care is found to be conducive towards positive patient experience. The principles are:
- Respect for patients’ values, preferences and expressed needs
- Coordination and integration of care
- Information and education
- Physical comfort
- Emotional support and alleviation of fear and anxiety
- Involvement of family and friends
- Continuity and transition
- Access to care
Understanding and respecting patients’ values, preferences and expressed needs is the foundation of patient-centred care
Harvey Picker, Founder of Picker Institute
How does Patient-Centered Care look like?
Being patient-centred means that we (healthcare professionals) recognise patients’ values and preferences. It is then used to make collaborative clinical decisions with them and guides the coordination of their care. We also make sure that patients and key family members/ friends are updated about their care plans, while we keep the patients comfortable and supported. When the patients are ready and we finally decide that the patients can be discharged, we ensure that ongoing treatment and follow-up services are in place for them. Any obstacles to access care that the patients may face are minimised as much as possible (Interesting read: UBERDOC)
Why is Patient-Centered Care important?
- Encourages Patient Involvement
- Being patient-centred doesn’t just mean that healthcare providers put patients and their values as the top priority, it also means that the patients are encouraged to play active roles in their clinical care. They are given autonomy in their care and are expected to question the healthcare providers about their care plan every step of the way whenever possible.
- Improves Patients’ Health Outcome & Satisfaction
- Patients who experience patient-centred care often find that their fears and anxiety are somewhat reduced through respectful care involving them and their family members/ friends. As a result, they usually report better health outcomes and satisfaction with their respective healthcare providers.
- Increase Operational Effectiveness
- Recognising patients’ needs allows healthcare providers to customise patients’ care. Some patients need extra care, while others don’t. Healthcare providers who refrain from serving patients in a one-size-fits-all approach will ensure that resources are allocated where it is really needed, hence improving operational effectiveness.
- Provides Competitive Advantage
- Healthcare institutions that uphold patient-centred care are often rated better by patients and their employees. And if the institution is in the private sector, even the slightest improvement in service rating will increase its competitive advantage. That may, in turn, affect their stream of future earnings.
Clearly, patient-centred care is more than just a buzzword. It is about treating patients with respect and involving them in clinical decisions. Healthcare providers must understand its elements and be able to recognise it in action, for the inability to do so will be a great loss.
For more resources on patient-centred care, check out Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care (IPFCC) and Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI).