Patient-centered care – one of the new buzz phrases in health care – is all about aligning the delivery of medical care with the needs and preferences of patients. Research shows that the practices and tools of patient-centered care result in:

  • Superior clinical outcomes
  • Higher consumer satisfaction
  • Improved access to needed care
  • Reduction of inappropriate use
  • Lower healthcare costs

Unfortunately, despite overwhelming support of the medical community and patient advocates, only 22 percent of physicians practice patient-centered care.

Patient-Centered Care Defined:

Patient-centered care is one of the six essential components of high quality medical care, according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the respected healthcare arm of the National Academy of Sciences. The IOM defines patient-centered care as:

Health care that establishes a partnership among practitioners, patients, and their families (when appropriate) to ensure that decisions respect patients’ wants, needs, and preferences and that patients have the education and support they need to make decisions and participate in their own care.

Key Components of Patent-Centered Care:

At its core, patient-centered care is all about improved patient-provider communication, where patients and providers collaborate for the benefit of the patient. Ideally, patient-centered care delivery involves an array of tools and practices, including:

  • Strong continuity of care, including close communication between primary care physicians and specialists, careful “hand-off” of patients among providers, and thorough post-hospital, post-surgical support and follow-up.
  • Effective use of modern health information technology, including (a) electronic medical records, (b) electronic prescribing, (c) e-lab results, (d) online scheduling, (e) email communications, and (f) automated patient reminders.
  • Clinic management and procedures to ensure (a) effective medication therapy management, (b) timely appointments, (c) access to after-hours services, and (d) fast, easy patient access to medical records.
  • Tools and information to facilitate patient decision making, including (a) reliable, actionable information on provider performance (i.e., transparency of quality, cost, safety) and (b) information and self-management tools to help patients manage their own conditions.

To learn more, check out these resources:

The Commonwealth Fund’s excellent initiatives on patient-centered care.

Report from the Economic and Social Research Institute on the key components of patient-centered care that are unique to underserved populations.

Tools from the HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).