Over the past few years, healthcare professionals have begun using the term patient-centered care to describe a growing number of processes and activities. Because the term has become more pervasive, it can be challenging to decipher exactly what patient-centered care means, what it encompasses and, most importantly, how you can create a more patient-centered experience within your healthcare organization.
Here is some helpful background information to help demystify this popular term:
What is Patient-Centered Care?
Patient-centered care is the practice of involving patients in their care through education and consistent communication, as well as acknowledging patients’ personal values and preferences as part of the clinical decision-making process. This may extend to patients’ families and loved ones, too.
While many healthcare professionals have used elements of patient-centeredness for generations, the term became more popular after the formation of the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaboration in 2006, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law in 2010.
4 Core Principles of Patient-Centered Care
Here are the four key principles of patient-centered care, as defined by the American College of Physicians (ACP) in the Annals of Internal Medicine:
- Treat patients and families with dignity and respect. It’s important to be considerate and sensitive to cultural and religious values. Healthcare professionals should treat patients as individuals, and honor their autonomy—which often means taking the time to listen to your patients’ wishes and striving to uphold them to the best of your ability.
- Ensure patients and families are active partners in all aspects of care.
Patients often feel powerless and vulnerable in a clinical setting. However, by including them in conversations, educating them about their diagnosis and creating a care plan together, you can alleviate patients’ fears and help them feel more comfortable.
- Allow patients and families to contribute to the ongoing development and improvement of healthcare systems. To succeed with patient-centered care, it’s crucial for healthcare organizations to gain insight into patient perspectives and gather their feedback. One of the best ways to achieve this is through a patient and family advisory council (PAC), which is a panel of patients and family members from a variety of backgrounds.
- Make patients and families partners in educating healthcare professionals.
While many healthcare professionals learn about patient-provider relations through their medical education, patient-centered care focuses on integrating patient input into continuing education programs. By consulting patients and families, and then using those findings in faculty training, healthcare organizations can boost their staff’s understanding of patient desires.
What are the Benefits of Patient-Centered Care?
Patient-centered care offers healthcare organizations several advantages, including:
● Increases patient satisfaction scores
When patients feel healthcare providers listen to their needs, respect their values and communicate effectively throughout the experience, they’re more likely to score those providers higher on patient satisfaction surveys. Better scores not only help increase your facility’s reputation, but can increase your government reimbursement, too.
● Boosts organization employee morale
Better relationships don’t only benefit patients — they make work more fulfilling for healthcare professionals as well. Patient-centered care can help you build stronger bonds with the patients you care for, which can make your job a little easier.
● Improves patient outcomes
When patients feel more involved in their care and better educated about their condition, they’re more likely to follow through with their care plan. Patient-centered care is associated with better recovery from discomfort, better emotional health and fewer diagnostic tests or referrals, according to a study by the Journal of Family Practice.
Successful patient care depends on communication — not only between patients and providers, but healthcare professionals and their supervisors, too. As a nursing leader, you’re in a position to impact real change within your organization and drive better outcomes for your patients. By educating your team on patient-centered care and ensuring they’re upholding the four fundamental principles, you can improve the experience for everyone involved.