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