What is patient-centered care?

November 4, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Gap Medics students with a patient on the maternity ward in Chiang Mai Years ago, patient care was centered on what the doctor thought was appropriate. Patients may not have been viewed as unique individuals with different needs. But times have changed. Today, patient-centered care is more the norm. Patient-centered care involves the patient taking an active role in their treatment decisions and care. A partnership is formed between healthcare providers, the patient and their family.

The patient’s values, cultural traditions, lifestyle and preferences are all taken into consideration by the doctor and healthcare team.



Whether you are a medical student, nurse, dentist or a physician assistant you need to have an understanding of what patient-centered care is and why it is beneficial.


Elements of patient-centered care

In order to provide patient-centered care, there are certain elements you must consider. Patient-centered care models include the following: 



Patient autonomy means the patient has the right to make their own decisions. As a healthcare provider, you may think a certain medical test or procedure is in the patient’s best interest. But the patient has the right to refuse any treatment they wish.



Without proper communication, patient-centered care will not work. Patients need to be informed about their condition and what their treatment options are. Physicians and other healthcare professionals need to provide understandable information on interventions and treatment. They also need to listen to their patient’s questions and concerns.


Treating the whole person

Patients are more than the sum of their symptoms and their diagnosis. Treating the whole person involves addressing their emotional, psychological and spiritual needs. It may mean integrating alternative treatment along with conventional medicine. Additionally, treatment may also be to improve quality of life or be preventive and not just to cure a condition.  


An integrated approach

Patients often benefit from a multidisciplinary team approach to treatment. This team approach may include doctors, nutritionists, therapists and social workers.


Why patient-centered care? 

Patient-centered care is beneficial for the healthcare provider and the patient. As a medical worker, you want to know your patients are informed and educated about their condition. This can lead to better compliance to treatment and prevention of complications.

When healthcare providers deliver patient-centered care, it also helps patients feel more in control. Having a medical condition or injury can make a person feel helpless or like they have lost control. By taking a role in the care they receive, patients may feel they are getting some control back, which can improve their outlook.

Patients who feel they are educated about their condition can make informed decisions. Having an understanding about a medical condition may also improve patient compliance. Patients can take responsibility for their health and make the changes needed to promote their recovery. Patient-centered care may even improve patient outcomes. According to the National Institute of Health, patient-centered care improves adherence to treatment, which may improve patient outcomes.

Another benefit of patient-centered care may be improved patient satisfaction. Feeling your healthcare needs are being met, and your concerns are being heard often makes patients happier with the care they receive.