Patient-centered primary care is beginning to form the cornerstone of quality health care, although there remains to be a separation from ideal patient care and the reality of the situation.
Health care services that are focused on the specific needs of each individual are an important step forward to making an improvement in overall health outcomes and patient satisfaction with health services.
Dimensions of Patient-Centered Care
According to the Picker Institute, there are eight primary dimensions of patient-centered care. These were originally created with hospital care in mind, but are equally relevant to primary care services. They are:
- Respect for the values, preferences and expressed needs of the patient
- Information and education
- Access to care for all individuals
- Emotional support for patients
- Involvement of family, friends and the community in the care plan
- Continuity of care when transitioning between health care practices
- Physical comfort for patients throughout care practice
- Coordination of care
Patients should be able to easily access health care services by making an appointment and consulting with a health professional in a timely manner. This goes beyond the practicing physician and should include the entire primary care team. For example, the communication with the patient from the practice administration staff should be of high quality and the waiting time to see a practitioner as short as possible.
Another prominent feature of patient-centered care is the involvement and engagement of patients in their health and management decisions. This allows them to have a better understanding of their health and improves the likelihood that they will adhere to medical recommendations.
Adequate communication among the primary care team members is also important, including sharing of patient information, so all health professionals have access to the most up-to-date records. This allows the optimal decisions to be made for the recommended treatment plan, based on the current situation of the patient.
Vision For Patient-Centered Primary Care Practice
A “2020 vision” for health care in America has been conveyed to include access to services, patient-centered care, decisions based on scientific evidence and affordable health insurance for all individuals.
Additionally, this vision emphasizes a commitment to the continual improvement of the health sector to lead to better public health outcomes.
Patient-centered care lies at the core of this vision. The benefits of tailoring health care decisions to the individual patient are well recognized, and the medical sector is looking to take the future of the profession in this direction.
Another vision for patient-centered care devised at a conference in Salzburg was as follows:
The practitioner-patient relationship is complemented by technology guidance and methods of communication.
The medical records are technology-based and accessible by the patient and health professionals from any location to allow continuity of care.
Patients are encouraged to regularly complete surveys and report their experience of health, and the information is immediately available for their healthcare team to access and provide interventions to improve care, if necessary.
In short, the key to quality patient-centered care is keeping the patient’s interests for their health first and foremost throughout the provision of primary care services.
Current Position of Primary Care
Although the vision for primary care is headed towards a system that is more responsive to the needs, values and preferences of patients, there is still a considerable way to go to fulfill this vision.
At present, it is estimated that only 36% of primary care physicians regularly review survey data from patients to receive feedback about the running of their practice and provision of care.
Therefore, the promotion and implementation of patient-centered primary care should be a focus of current practitioners, in the interest of improving overall patient health outcomes.
This is of particular importance for primary care practitioners, who are the first point of entry for patients into the health care system.