Promoting Patient-Centered Care in Clinical Practice

Patient-centered care is not merely a set of protocols, it’s something many medical professionals must practice. It involves — among other things — open communication, active listening, and genuine empathy. It’s a philosophy that places the patient at the center of the healthcare experience, rather than just quick results.

Key Components of Patient-Centered Care

Patient-centered care is a way to encourage people of all backgrounds and experiences to seek medical care when (and even before) they need it. It takes the transactional feeling out of healthcare. Medical interactions aren’t confined to just the symptoms a patient experiences but delve into the emotional and cultural nuances that shape their health narrative.

To practice patient-centered care, practitioners must learn and actively practice the following:

  • Open and honest communication: Patients don’t need their diagnosis sugar-coated. Many prefer a direct, honest, caring approach. Make sure to explain the diagnosis in an easy-to-understand way and share all relevant information about treatment options and potential outcomes.
  • Active listening: Actively engaging in conversations with patients to understand their medical concerns, but also their future health goals. Demonstrate a willingness to listen without interrupting, allowing patients to express themselves fully.
  • Empathy: Remember that your patient is human. Recognize and acknowledge the emotional aspects of their illness or healthcare experiences. When you demonstrate genuine empathy, this creates a supportive and understanding environment.
  • Shared decision-making: Don’t just tell patients what the best option is. Involve them from the beginning in the decision-making process regarding their healthcare plans. Patients may prefer a different type of care (i.e. medications vs. holistic approaches), and you should always do your best to accommodate these desires.
  • An understanding of the patient’s perspective: Every patient is different. Ensure you’re taking into account the unique perspectives, beliefs, and cultural backgrounds of each patient. There’s a fundamental distrust of medical systems by some communities, and that’s for a reason. Understanding the experiences of various groups of people helps you provide the type of care that truly helps them over time.

How Medical Professionals Can Overcome Challenges in Implementing Patient-Centered Care

Patient-centered care should, theoretically, be the norm, but that’s not always the case. Certain policies and approaches favor fast results more than patient needs. Still, these challenges are obstacles that many practicing medical professionals can find a way past.

To ensure you’re providing the best care possible, let’s look at the two biggest hindrances in the medical system: time constraints and resistance to change by higher-level management.

Time Constraints in Clinical Settings

It’s no secret that medical professionals of all kinds are overworked. With hundreds, if not thousands of patients to see per day, hospitals, clinics, and private practices often find themselves focusing on a fix-it-quick approach to medicine. While understandable, this isn’t what most patients are looking for.

Every minute counts when you’re with a patient, so prioritizing concise and targeted questioning, ensures that patients can express their concerns efficiently. Utilizing technology helps lessen these time constraints, but providing patients with pre-appointment questionnaires that capture essential information.

Supporting staff are becoming more vital in clinical settings. Nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and administrative staff must collaborate to streamline the paperwork necessary to have the hospital or office operate.

Recognizing that the transformation to patient-centered care extends beyond individual practitioners. Healthcare management plays a pivotal role. To help create a less time-consuming process, they must provide ongoing training programs that focus on enhancing communication skills, active listening, and efficient information delivery.

Resistance to Change among Healthcare Professionals

Fully committing to patient-centered care isn’t always easy. Recognize that resistance often stems from a fear of the unknown or perceived disruptions to established routines. To address this, comprehensive training programs must be instituted. These programs must not only emphasize the benefits of patient-centered care but also equip healthcare professionals with the necessary communication skills.

By reframing resistance as an opportunity for growth and improvement, the healthcare industry can collectively embrace patient-centered care with confidence.

Can Technology Help Make Patient-Centered Care More Accessible?

Technology has always played a crucial role in healthcare. Of late, telemedicine has grown in popularity, enhancing accessibility to patient-centered care. Leveraging technological advancements significantly contributes to breaking down barriers for patients. It gives professionals the ability to deliver care to patients who may not otherwise seek it.

Technology has already helped make patient-centered care more easily attainable. This is occurring through various technologies, including:

Telemedicine Gives Greater Access to Medical Care

Telemedicine platforms offer a valuable solution to bridge the gap between healthcare providers and patients, especially for those in remote or underserved areas. Virtual consultations with nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals, enable patients to access healthcare services conveniently and more quickly.

Telemedicine gives power back to patients, allowing them to fit appointments into their schedules and avoid long waits for minor medical concerns. At the same time, it also helps patients address small issues sooner, before they become more serious and require in-person care.

Of course, as with any technology, we must recognize the existence of technological disparities. Not everyone has access to the technology they need. That’s why companies like the Rural Technology Fund and the Center on Rural Innovation, dedicated to getting tech to rural communities, are vital organizations.

Remote Monitoring Medical Devices Help With Chronic Conditions

Implementing remote monitoring devices allows healthcare professionals to track patients’ health parameters in real-time. Patients actively participate in managing their health conditions from the comfort of their homes. For patients with chronic illnesses, this monitoring provides them with a greater level of freedom, reducing the need for in-person visits.

Health Apps Give Power to Patients

Health tracking apps like Google Fit, MyFitnessPal, and Noom place the ability to monitor and manage well-being directly into the hands of users. Offering features from personalized health metric tracking to integration with wearable devices (i.e. Fitbit, Apple Watch, etc.), these apps encourage individuals to take an active role in their wellness.

Patients can access real-time data, set personalized health goals, and receive reminders for medication or physical activities. These devices make health something fun and engaging to track, fostering proactive health management.

Patient Portals Create More Transparency

Patient portals may seem like a small invention in the world of medicine, but the creation of these portals has helped countless patients and medical providers alike. Secure patient portals facilitate communication between healthcare providers and patients, allowing patients to access their medical records, test results, and treatment plans. This offers a greater sense of transparency between doctor and patient, enabling patients to actively participate in the decision-making processes.