When you ensure that healthcare is focused on a patient’s needs, everyone benefits — the patient, the care team, and, ultimately, the entire healthcare system. It’s easier said than done, of course. Even so, the importance of patient-centered care cannot be overstated.
So, what does patient-centered care entail?
In short, it’s a form of care that places the patient at the center of their healthcare experience. And it encourages opportunities for a sustained rapport between the patient and the provider in the form of longer, more regular appointments. In this way, patients and providers have the time to make informed, well-thought-out decisions about a patient’s health.
Those who have already begun to implement it agree: it’s the way of the future. Here are just three ways it’s already reshaping the healthcare industry.
It’s improving patient outcomes
Extended visits with a provider who listens help to make patients feel understood. With this model, they have an opportunity to voice their concerns and ask questions. And they have the time and space to not only decide what is best for their health, but also understand how to make sustainable changes at home to support those decisions.
But the provider is just one person helping patients along on their healthcare journey.
You have a whole team, including a health coach whose sole job is to ensure patients are taking small, attainable steps towards theirhealth goals. Visits with a provider are followed up with regular check-ins with the extended care team, and a patient may also receive personalized outreach to ensure they feel supported and remember to come back in to address additional medical needs.
Ultimately, this improves a patient’s knowledge about their health and how one health decision affects another — which leads to dramatic improvement. At apree health, for example, we’ve seen that many of our diabetic patients have experienced a significant drop in their A1c levels — or average blood sugar levels — as a result of their participation in our program. That kind of drop, when sustained, lowers their long-term risk of severe complications from diabetes, such as vision problems and heart disease.
It’s reducing burnout among providers
Nearly half — 42% — of physicians across 29 specialties reported feeling burned out in 2020, according to Medscape’s National Physician Burnout and Suicide Report. While several factors contribute to burnout, including long hours and lack of support, we’d venture to say that these numbers would improve dramatically under a patient-centered care approach.
Many of our providers come from the traditional fee-for-service model. And it can be a huge adjustment to go from seeing 30 patients a day to 10 to 15. But seeing fewer patients allows them to connect with the patients they see, helps them more holistically, and reconnects them with why they wanted to pursue a career in healthcare in the first place.
Providers also can see the results of the care they provide. For example, many of our care centers at apree health are affiliated with different employer groups, and through their work, providers become an integral part of the employer’s culture. This allows them to see their influence manifest in small but concrete ways: fewer candy bowls, more walking meetings, and happy, healthier employees.
Seeing that their care is producing tangible results in patients can increase job satisfaction, and this will likely go a long way toward preventing long-term burnout.
It’s becoming the minimum standard of care
Patients who experience this level of care are starting to demand it across the industry. That is, their experience with patient-centered care allows them to understand what care they should have access to. They then compare their experiences with other touchpoints in the healthcare system — from other providers to insurance companies. And many health systems are found wanting.
At the same time, healthcare professionals are also seeing the value — and not just from an individual professional level. They are looking at the data and outcomes associated with a patient-centered model and are advocating for it as well.
While the healthcare industry is notoriously slow to change, practices that don’t implement this type of model will eventually lose any competitive advantage they currently have, whether in the patient’s or healthcare professional’s eyes.
Yet, the barriers to implementing patient-centered care across the healthcare industry are significant. For one, the current fee-for-service system incentivizes quantity over quality. Many providers are paid by the number of patients they see, which means immediate-term success depends on cycling patients in and out of the provider’s office quickly.
Sporadic 15-minute visits, hastily scribbled prescriptions, and generic pamphlets leave little time to build connections and uncover the root of a health issue. Providers need to have the freedom and time to care for their patients.
They also need to have the proper training. Effective listening and forging relationships with patients is a key component of patient-centered care. But it takes skill and practice. That’s why empathetic listening is more than a catch phrase at apree health, it’s an integral part of our training and practice.
Thankfully, none of these issues are insurmountable. With the right resources and guidance, creating an excellent patient/provider experience is within reach.
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