Quality medical care is not “one-size-fits-all.” Effective treatment considers the patient as a whole person, not just a disease. Patient-centered care is care that respects the individual patient’s unique preferences, needs, and values. Patients become the central focus of the entire care team: doctors, nurses, medical and physical assistants, and clerical staff. Together, the team provides coordinated and integrated care that provides the best outcomes for the patient.
The Patient as an Individual
Each patient experiences illness in a completely different way. Gender, ethnicity, religion, age, experiences, relationships, and emotional health can all impact the way a patient understands their health, responds to it, values it, communicates about it, and how it ultimately impacts their lives. Understanding a person’s social and cultural values is imperative to providing quality care. These perspectives and preferences should be integrated into all team discussions and decisions. This allows the patient and provider to collaborate on setting individual goals of care and creating a comprehensive care plan.
Patient Communication is Key To Success
Effective communication is key to successful patient-centered care. Each member of the team is responsible for communicating all the necessary information the patient needs in order to participate in shared decision making. The clinician must ensure the patient has a comprehensive understanding of his or her disease, based on individual preferences and needs. This involves not only explaining details and allowing the patient to ask questions during the visit, but also providing the patient access to additional resources for self-education. The clinician should always explain all testing and treatment options, including the risks and benefits of each, to empower the patient to make informed decisions. Clinicians should notify the patient of all test results in a timely manner.
Office managers and staff must also collaborate with the patient to arrange appointments that can fit into the patient’s schedule. Office staff should always answer the phone and emails in a timely manner. They should establish a preferred method of contact to remind the patient of upcoming appointments or inform the patient of last-minute changes.
Coordinated and Integrated Care
The care team should provide accessible, coordinated, comprehensive, and continuous quality health care. The patient should feel their care is seamless, efficient, and tailored to their individual needs and circumstances. This is achieved though communication within the team, division of labor, effective problem solving, organization, and emphasis on timely service. Office staff should proactively prepare for patient appointments by reviewing their records and making sure that all required documents for the practice are available before the patient arrives. Clinicians should make sure all orders have been placed, all testing has been scheduled, and all results have been reviewed after the patient visit. When referring a patient to a specialist, care providers should make sure specialists have the appropriate amount of clerical and clinical information about the patient prior to the appointment, and that physicians receive the specialist’s recommendations by way of consults and/or test results.
You, the patient, are the most vital member to the care team! In order to get the best care possible, it is necessary to play an active role on the team. Prepare for your appointments and make a list of questions beforehand. Follow the “care plan” your team has developed for you, and let your care team know when you are unable to. Work with the health care team to learn how to self-manage your care.