The price is right: the myth of expensive patient-centered approach

Richard A. Kimball, Jr.
Richard A. Kimball, Jr.

A healthcare delivery approach that is based on the needs of the patient seems like a reasonable and straightforward undertaking. However, not much of this focus has been practiced in the industry until only recently. In a more traditional approach to healthcare delivery, patient-centeredness is seen as a luxury – an expendable effort that only adds to the cost. Even today, as the concept of patient-centered care is gaining ground, apprehensiveness to its adoption still remain. The apprehensions mostly do not root from objection to the idea of patient-centeredness but mainly from the cost, financial and otherwise, associated with its adoption.

Those apprehensions in adopting the patient-centered care  approach mostly point to the financial cost of changing a system. As healthcare is a critical service, patient safety is prioritized. With the ever-rising cost of healthcare, additional investments required for adopting a new system are deemed unnecessary. However, what most observers fail to consider is that shifting to a more patient-centered care delivery mode does not necessarily mean high expenditure in new equipment, renovations, etc. As patient-centered care is anchored in human interactions, easing into this approach requires more of a change in attitude in the practitioners and staff. It does not mean increasing the number of personnel dealing with clients but optimizing the interactions towards a more meaningful exchange with patients at current staffing level.

This change in attitude does not only mean showing kindness and compassion to clients but also having the resolve to involve patients and their families in their healthcare. This intention requires a mindset that views the patient as an active partner in healthcare service delivery. As such, information and communication are also key factors for helping patients and their families become involved in their care. Patients must be informed of their legal right to access their medical records and practitioners must take the time to educate patients about their medical records and the records’ implications on their lifestyles and possible needed changes that the patients must make to stay well. Patients must be urged to become engaged in the context of their overall personhood. Their physical condition must be assessed in conjunction with their life outside the healthcare facility. Their wishes in the subject of their health must be honored though priority will  still be given to ensuring patient safety.

Recent years have shown a dramatic shift in the way of patient-centered care. This shift can be attributed to patient-centeredness being considered as one of the key factors to high-quality healthcare. High-quality healthcare delivery is no longer a one-dimensional approach. Although not as costly as feared, the shift still involves expenses particularly in the education and training of practitioners. However, these expenses are small when viewed in the chasm of the total healthcare service cost. Even more interesting, though, is to see the many benefits accrued by healthcare service organizations from a modest investment. Next time, let’s take a look at the financial gains of investing in patient-centered medicine.

6 Responses

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    I personally think educating practitioners on how to be people-oriented is great. I’ve had too many experiences with doctors that were too awkward. They almost came off as not wanting to deal with me, and more as they just wanted to get the appointment over with. It’s exceptionally hard to find a doctor that actually cares and gives you the attention you deserve, especially when it comes to your health.

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    I can see why it would be a little cheaper by the way that you explain things. The technology is available, but it would have to be taught to the older folks that are not in tune with it, for it to work.

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    Mr. Tim

    I don’t see why hospitals and people in general are having such an issue with this method of healthcare. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve gone to the emergency room just to leave feeling like it was a waste of time. They ask questions, give you some pills, and tell you to go see your primary doctor for a follow up. I have never had someone in a hospital that has shown compassion towards me or my family. It doesn’t seem right, and honestly, if hospitals would just adopt this method, they’d likely have even more business than they do now.

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    In my opinion, nothing is more important than being patient centered. My mother works at a medical school and she has to help future doctors work on their patient care. She has to be very aware of things like manners, body language, and so on for work so now she notices it a lot in her everyday life and the amount of doctors who put such little effort into their work is appalling! It’s definitely crucial to be patient centered.

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    Matthew P.

    I do hope that hospitals will try applying this kind of approach. For me, it is a way so that patients and families will be lightened up with its burden specifically with regards to the overall expenses on medication and hospitalization. It will also contribute the speedy recovery of the patient knowing that he/she is in good hands.

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    Rodney, I can’t agree with you anymore. I never understood why hospitals or doctor’s offices weren’t already patient-centered. They’re taking care of people – real life people with real problems, thoughts, happiness, and so much more.

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