smiling nurse with hand on shoulder of senior patient
Profiles and Features October 9, 2019

By Brook Jillings

5 Ways to Provide Successful Patient-Centered Care

Patient-centered care is a valuable concept because medical professionals often see patients on the worst days of their lives.

It's easy to assume that patients are too distraught or don't have the proper training to advocate for their own care. 

But, doing so often leaves them feeling confused about what's happening; they may lose trust in their healthcare providers. 

You can alleviate this problem by implementing patient-centered care, so attention is focused on the patient rather than the ailment.

5 Methods For Making Patient-Centered Care A Priority

If you're ready to inform and empower your patients to take responsibility for their health, here are five ways you can provide patient-centered care.

1. Try to work with others who value patient-centered care

The best way to adopt a patient-centered care approach is to surround yourself with medical professionals who also consider it valuable.

Organizations that prioritize patient-centered care develop a professional culture that focuses on compassion for their patients. 

These facilities support your natural empathy and encourage a stronger connection between you and your patients.

"Hire the right people throughout the organization," suggests Douglas A. Wilber, founder of Cherished Companions Home Care, LLC. "We can teach people technique, but we can't teach people to have a heart."

Medical providers who encourage patients to engage in their healthcare decisions understand the positive impact of patient-centered care. 

An engaged patient takes ownership of their health decisions, leading to a better understanding of medical instructions and a higher chance of follow-through.

Patient-centered care naturally encourages engagement from patients. It empowers them to ask questions and verify they understand the medical instructions they receive.

2. Take time to listen to your patients

The concept of patient-centered care relies on the patient's ability to voice their needs and expectations.

Patient-care expert Lauren Crain says, "The best way to let someone know that you care about them is by listening to them." 

Taking the time to listen to your patients gives you a better understanding of their situation to develop a care plan that considers their needs.

For this model to work, medical professionals must take the time to listen to what patients are saying. The high demand for medical attention makes it easy to justify shuffling patients in and out quickly, but this leaves them little time to explain their experience fully.

This is especially important for pain management, which is an entirely subjective experience.

3. Take in the bigger picture

When you take the time to listen to your patients, they'll often share seemingly unrelated information. Sometimes, that information is relevant to their condition. Consider a story shared by Sarah LaFave, president of the board at Lori's Hands:

A woman, complaining of faulty hearing aids, made several trips to the audiologist. Each time, they said her hearing aids were fine. 

When the physician made a home visit and discovered an environmental feedback issue, the problem was finally resolved.

Sarah says, "It was important for the provider to consider the context of that client's life, rather than assuming that she saw the whole picture in the exam room."

4. Consider cultural needs

Cultural considerations are also an important part of patient-centered care. Certain cultural beliefs require alternative treatment methods that fall in line with the patient's chosen lifestyle.

For example, a patient who is a practicing Muslim often refrains from ingesting pork. Should that patient need an intravenous blood thinner, Heparin may not be a good option. It's made with pork derivatives. Similarly, someone who follows a vegan diet may want to refrain from any animal-derived products.

It's also important to consider that comfortable patients respond better to treatment than stressed or anxious ones. 

Suzanne Garber, director of the documentary GAUZE: Unraveling Global Healthcare, says, "Language, cuisine and even room color can all play a part in making patients, particularly those from other countries, feel more at home."

Keeping your patients relaxed helps facilitate the healing process. It's an integral part of patient-centered care.

5. Encourage patient advocacy

A patient's comprehension of their situation is a critical aspect of patient-centered care.

When a patient sees a doctor, they sometimes hear things that cause anxiety or even shock. They may become less attentive to continuing instruction. Patient advocates ensure patients can review information after they've had time to process what they've heard.

"Advocate for advocates," advises Garber. "Oftentimes, patients attending doctors' appointments without an advocate miss key details as their minds are racing and they are overwhelmed with the diagnosis."

Patient advocates serve through advocacy organizations and hospital programs. Sometimes, they're simply a trusted friend or family member. 

It's essential that an advocate is focused; they must understand and retain the information. This minimizes misunderstandings and ensures the patient understands their treatment options and medical needs.

Patient-centered care is rapidly becoming the preferred model for many medical facilities. Extra time spent with patients results in fewer medical mistakes and better outcomes.

Allow patients to participate in their care and give them time to explain the details of their condition. 

You'll have an opportunity to understand the patient's situation better, and you'll be confident they're making informed decisions about their treatment. 

Successful patient-centered care leaves the patient feeling heard, cared for, and prepared for their journey to recovery.

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