Promoting a Patient-Focused Culture
The concept of patient-centered care arose in the 1990s after healthcare providers and academics began surveying patients, family members, care providers and hospital staff members about ways to improve care. Consumer preferences, reimbursement incentives linked to patient satisfaction scores and the expectation of personalized service are driving demand for a patient-centered approach, says Jennifer Perry, Vice President of Healthcare for FMG Leading. “The mandate for creating a culture around patient-focused healthcare has never been greater.”
Principles of patient-centered care include:
- Respect for patient values and preferences.
- Coordinated, integrated care.
- Clear communication.
- Physical comfort and emotional support.
- Keeping family and friends involved, when applicable.
- Transition and continuity of care.
Perry says organizations are still struggling to get it right simply because they don’t have a culture of centering on the patient. “Many providers mistakenly focused only on customer service training or service gimmicks rather than making patient-focused healthcare central to their strategy and culture,” she says.
Promoting a culture of patient-centered care takes a lot of effort. These three tips can get your organization on track.
Too often, organizations focus on integrated, coordinated care among different caregivers and let the other principles go by the wayside, says Jonathan Doctor, Managing Partner at DeNovo Health Partners. Organizations have gotten better about encouraging different caregivers to work together on patient care, but that’s only part of what patient-centered care is. “In the terms of attention and customer service, that’s not there. There are issues; and you can’t have one without the other.”
Provide the Leadership
Perry says leadership and employee engagement are two key factors that help determine whether building a patient-centered culture will be a success. “Leadership vision and commitment to a cultural transformation is required to truly change culture,” she says, and that takes focus, investment and long-term commitment. “Organizations must start with ensuring that their own providers and staff feel valued before they can expect them to treat their patients with care and caring. ‘How we experience each other is how our patients experience us’ is a truth among healthcare workers, and often not recognized or addressed by leadership.”
Provide the Resources
When physicians have the time to build a rapport with the patient, it makes it more likely that the patient will adhere to the treatment, says Kirsten Thompson, M.D., a psychiatrist in private practice. It’s better for providers, too, she says: “It’s what we aimed to do when we went to medical school, which is, take care of other humans.”
DeNovo’s Doctor agrees. When physicians themselves can reach out to patients to discuss lab results, for example, they tend to get the most cooperation from a patient, and when you have that cooperation that leads to a bond, you get the best healthcare outcomes, he says.
Healthcare providers need the resources (and in most cases, that means the time) to be able to focus on patients more closely. “Unfortunately, the environment that providers operate in now, they’re not able to do that. But if you talk to physicians, they say it’s important to have clinical expertise but it’s equally important to have the time to build a relationship.”
“Medicine is both an art and a science, and part of feeling good is building relationships with patients,” Doctor says. “If you can’t do that, a good chunk of your outcomes will get diluted.”