Having long been a hallmark of nursing care, the concept of patient-centeredness has finally worked its way into the larger hospital and healthcare culture. Boosted by organizations like Planetree, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, and the Institute of Medicine—which in 2001 highlighted patient-centeredness as one of six goals for the 21st-century healthcare system—patient-centered care is receiving more attention than ever before.
Patient-centered care can be defined in different ways. But at its essence is a central theme: Power to the patient. Once a mere player in a healthcare experience largely orchestrated by physicians and centered on disease, patient-centered care puts the emphasis on the patient.
Care that is patient-centered supports the patient’s clinical needs as well as his emotional and educational needs. Patients and their families collaborate in care plans and receive respect and dignity throughout the healthcare process. Patient-centered care does not position patients as passive recipients of healthcare, but rather as partners in their care. In short, patient-centered care treats patients as we would want to be treated.
It also delivers benefits. Patients who have a say in their healthcare are more likely to ask questions, seek to understand, and then adhere to treatment plans—all of which promote better outcomes. They are also more likely to be satisfied with their care and less likely to file complaints and lawsuits.
A few examples of how patient-centered care has spread in hospitals in recent years include:
Although a little late to the scene, now that it’s arrived, patient-centered care seems positioned to stay. Unlike other healthcare initiatives that come and go with the changing tides, patient-centered care is a sustainable, cultural shift. Or, as Planetree puts it in its Patient-Centered Care Improvement Guide, “It is about attitude, kindness, compassion and empathy.” Who would move to abandon that?
In fact, patient-centered care is a mainstay of the Affordable Care Act, which consistently references it through terms like patient satisfaction, patient experience of care, patient engagement, and shared-decision-making. Medicare patients even have a say now in the reimbursement rates a hospital receives via the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Care Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) questionnaire.
The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) promotes patient-centeredness too, in its Magnet Recognition Program. Family-centered care is included in its Forces of Magnetism, and its Exemplary Professional Practice standards require specific examples of patient-centered care.
As patient-centeredness continues to establish roots in individual hospitals and the greater healthcare culture, the approach may eventually become so ingrained that it will no longer be recognized as a movement, but rather, simply as the right thing to do.
According to Planetree, that’s where some forward-thinking facilities are already finding themselves.
“Many organizations that have grown and sustained a patient-centered culture find it difficult to articulate precisely what they ‘do’ that is patient-centered, because it has long since become ‘who they are’ rather than a task list,” the organization explains. “Whether they are participants in another program, Baldrige award winners, Magnet hospitals, or organizations striving to achieve another goal, they approach all of these things from a patient-centered perspective.”