Patient-centered Care Requires Communication and Relationships

Investment in infrastructure and technology can support care

August 03, 2010

Research has demonstrated that patient-centered health care improves patient satisfaction, quality of care and health outcomes while reducing health care costs and disparities in care.

But what exactly is patient-centered care and how can it be achieved?

In an article published today in the August issue of Health Affairs, lead author Ronald M. Epstein, M.D., professor of Family Medicine, Psychiatry and of Oncology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and his colleagues define patient-centered care, detail the steps to a patient-centered health care system and explain how progress can be measured.

“Patient-centeredness is not just giving patients what they want, when they want it, regardless of value or cost,” the article states. “Although the use of health information technology and similar infrastructure supports are important enablers of patient-centered care, the concept, at its core, encapsulates healing relationships grounded in strong communication and trust.”

The article, which is titled “Why the Nation Needs a Policy Push on Patient-Centered Health Care,” says “patient-centered care depends on three factors: an informed and involved patient and family; receptive and responsive health professionals who can focus on disease and knowing the patient; and a well-coordinated and well-integrated health care environment that supports the efforts of patients, families, and their clinicians.”

 In addition to Epstein, who also is director of the Rochester Center for Communication and Disparities Research, the article’s authors include: Kevin Fiscella, M.D., M.P.H., professor of Family Medicine, Community and Preventive Medicine and of Oncology, at the Medical Center; Cara S. Lesser, director of foundation programs at ABIM Foundation; and Kurt C. Stange, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Family Medicine, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Sociology and of Oncology at Case Western Reserve University and editor of Annals of Family Medicine.

The authors received support for the article from the Commonwealth Fund, ABIM Foundation, the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute.

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