How Patient Centered Care Improves Outcomes

06/19/2020

How Patient Centered Care Improves Outcomes

By Alana Luna, contributor

From minor illnesses to life-threatening conditions, there are countless reasons someone might end up in a doctor's care, and no two scenarios are alike. Treatment and results depend heavily on subjective factors ranging from patient compliance to available of emotional support, which is why patient-centered care is so integral. 

For healthcare professionals wondering how to improve outcomes, adopting personalized discussions and encouraging patients to take a more active role in their medical care can be important first steps.

What is Patient-Centered Care?

"You need to visualize the patient at the center and all care being provided, payers, technologies etc., as a ball of spaghetti around the patient, interwoven to assess their need for care," explains Rajeev Mudumba, a seasoned healthcare executive and entrepreneur and the host of podcast Plan B Success.

"Bring the right care providers to provide care for the patient at opportune times and to walk away once they are done while still linked in communication to all the other care providers, administrators, payers and related technologies so that the information passing through them all is uniform and consistent."

In other words, patient-centered care means doing everything in your power to provide care that respects patients' needs, values and preferences rather than your own.

Ensuring clear communication and patient comprehension

One study found that patient non-adherence leads to as much as $300 billion in annual health care costs that could have otherwise been avoided — that's roughly 10 percent of total health costs in the United States. One path toward eliminating that excess is improving doctor-patient communication techniques and laying out clear guidelines so patients know how to advocate for and support their own well-being.

"Patients often leave a doctor's office without understanding the recommendations or having asked their most important questions," says Dr. Pano Yeracaris, who is the chief clinical strategist at Care Transformation Collaborative of Rhode Island. "Patient-centered care is geared towards encouraging patients to ask their questions and make sure they understand what to do next."

Teamwork is essential

The medical field is a team sport; no one position or department can truly function independently, and patients often — if not always — rely on a network of experts for diagnoses and treatment, especially if a condition is especially complex or chronic.

As Care Transformation Collaborative of Rhode Island's Executive Director, Debra Hurwitz explains it, "A team-based approach to patient-centered primary care has shown significant improvements in outcomes and cost of care, even for high-risk patients. Nurses, for example, facilitate complex care management and coordination while medical assistants conduct universal screening for depression, anxiety and substance use disorders, and social workers can support those patients with on-site behavioral health counseling."

Inspiring positive thinking

Time and time again, researchers have found a link between patient wellness and whether or not they feel heard. It makes sense — it's human nature to doubt others when you feel they're not listening to you or treating you as an individual. That's a hard pill to swallow when a mere 36 percent of patients ever have the opportunity to talk to their doctor about why they're visiting and what kind of help they're looking for, and even in cases when patients are allowed to talk, they're interrupted after only 11 seconds.

Patient-centered care starts with the very first meeting. This initial impression sets the stage for the entirety of the doctor-patient relationship and serves as an indicator as to whether the physician is going to include the patient in the decision-making process or not. Doctors have a responsibility to make an effort at personalization and active listening, and that model should be followed by every other patient-facing healthcare worker as well.

Practicing patient-centered care isn't as simple as flipping a switch. It takes dedication, hard work and periodic reviews to see what you're doing right and how you can improve. Still, the positive patient outcomes are more than worth the effort.

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