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Definition of Patient-Centered Care

Last updated on
September 28, 2022
  • Patient-centered care is a model in which patients are active participants in their healthcare journey and treatment plans in partnership with their care teams.
  • There are eight primary dimensions of the patient-centered care model. (See full list below).
  • In addition to the patient, their support team, and their care team — technology is a major player in achieving patient-centered care. Many healthcare technology platforms, like Klara’s conversational patient engagement platform, are being built with the goal of improving the way patients interact with their providers.
Definition of Patient-Centered Care
Table of contents

What is Patient-Centered Care?

The definition of patient-centered care is “a model in which providers partner with families to identify and satisfy the full range of patient needs and preferences.”

To expand this definition, patient-centered care also depends on the involvement of the staff and care team. According to the Picker Institute, “to succeed, a patient-centered approach must also address the staff experience as staff’s ability and inclination to effectively care for patients is unquestionably compromised if they do not feel cared for themselves.”

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 health outcomes for the patient.

8 Key Factors of Patient-Centered Care

Researchers from Harvard Medical School, on behalf of Picker Institute and The Commonwealth Fund, defined eight primary dimensions of the patient-centered care model. These factors are identified as:

  • Respect for patients’ values, preferences, and expressed needs
  • Coordination and integration of care
  • Information, communication, and education
  • Physical comfort
  • Emotional support and alleviation of fear and anxiety
  • Involvement of family and friends
  • Transition and continuity
  • Access to care

According to the research, the following concerns or areas of focus within each category are as follows:

Respect for Values

Patient values are essential to keep in mind when it comes to providing patient-centered care. Healthcare professionals should provide all patients with dignity, respect, and sensitivity to their cultural values.

In addition, illness and medical treatment may have an impact on the quality of life of patients. For this reason, care should be provided in an atmosphere that is respectful of the individual patient and focused on quality-of-life issues. Ultimately, informed and shared decision-making is a central component of patient-centered care.

Care Coordination

Care coordination has an impact on the overall patient experience for patients facing an illness. These areas of care coordination and integration include clinical care, ancillary and support services, and front-line patient care.

Information, Communication, and Education

A major factor of patient-centered care is the knowledge that patients are equipped with to manage their healthcare journey. Healthcare providers should always provide information to patients on the various processes of their care including their treatment options, clinical status, progress, and prognosis. In addition, they should communicate the necessary information and education to facilitate autonomy, self-care, and health promotion.

Physical Comfort

Physical comfort is another dimension of the patient-centered care model. Hospital surroundings and environment should be kept in focus, including ensuring that the patient’s needs for privacy are accommodated and that patient areas are kept clean and comfortable, with appropriate accessibility for visits by family and friends. In addition, assistance with activities and daily living needs should be considered.

Emotional Support, Alleviation of Fear and Anxiety

Another element of the patient-centered care model is emotional support and alleviation of fear and anxiety. Consider providing patient support for anxiety over clinical status, treatment, and prognosis. Also consider anxiety over the impact of illness on the patient and their family, as well as anxiety over the financial impact of illness.

Involvement of Family and Friends

Accommodation, by clinicians and caregivers, of family and friends on whom the patient relies for social and emotional support is crucial in providing patient-centered care. Always provide respect for and recognition of the patient “advocate’s” role in decision-making. Provide support for family members as caregivers as well as recognition of the needs of family and friends.

Transition and Continuity

When it comes to transition and continuity of care, provide understandable, detailed information regarding medications, physical limitations, dietary needs, etc. Always coordinate and plan ongoing treatment and services after discharge and ensure that patients and families understand this information. Healthcare providers should provide information regarding access to clinical, social, physical, and financial support on a continuing basis.

In addition, other factors including access to the location of hospitals, clinics, and physician offices, availability of transportation, ease of scheduling, and availability of scheduling appointments when needed are important to the transition and continuity of care.

When it comes to the continuation of care, accessibility to specialists or specialty services when a referral is made is important as well as providing clear instructions on when and how to get referrals.

Access to Care

The last dimension of the patient-centered care model is overall access to care. This includes access to the location of hospitals, clinics, and physician offices, availability of transportation, ease of scheduling, and availability of scheduling appointments when needed is important to the transition and continuity of care. In addition, accessibility to specialists or specialty services when a referral is made is important as well as providing clear instructions on when and how to get referrals.

Technology & Patient-Centered Care

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 through communication within the team, division of labor, effective problem solving, organization, and emphasis on timely service.

Technology can also assist in achieving coordinated and integrated care, but it is important to use technology systems that are interoperable. For example, a medical practice’s EHR should interface with its patient engagement platform so that communication can be automated and synced directly into the EHR, benefitting both medical practice staff and patients. Interoperability among technology platforms provides better access to health information, where and when it is needed, as well as streamlines communication within your practice.

Once a technological foundation is set, 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.

Many healthcare groups today are taking strides towards providing an experience with patient-centric care. For example, according to NEJM Catalyst, “many providers are implementing patient satisfaction surveys, patient and family advisory councils, and focus groups to improve the way health care facilities and provider practices are designed, managed, and maintained from both a physical and operational perspective so they become centered more on the individual person than on a checklist of services provided.”

Klara Helps Enable Patient-Centered Care

While a lot has changed in the last few years, it’s clear patients and providers are looking for the same thing — simplicity and transparency throughout the healthcare experience. At Klara, we believe that the future of healthcare is placing patients and the center of their care and that the first step to achieving this is solving the issue of fragmented communication within the healthcare industry. 

Klara’s conversational patient engagement platform is built to help achieve this by enabling patients to communicate with their healthcare providers on the channels that they prefer, no matter if they are at home or on the go. All patient communication is streamlined into one centralized patient thread across teams and third parties to improve operational efficiency across care teams and ultimately increase patient satisfaction.

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Simon Bolz, Co-Founder, Klara

A serial entrepreneur, Simon founded two technology companies in Berlin. He then found his true passion in healthcare helping build Germany’s most innovative implantology clinic group. Simon studied at the London School of Economics, Humboldt Universität Berlin, and got a Masters at the New School for Social Research in New York. In 2013, he and Simon Lorenz, Ph.D. founded Klara with the mission to transform communication in healthcare, so every patient can receive great care.

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