Using Data to Determine How to Provide Patient-Centered Care
Let’s face it; healthcare practitioners and organizations are overwhelmed and overworked, and the rise in demand for things like patient-centered care seem like just one more set of requirements in an ever more complicated landscape. And yet, thinking about how to provide patient-centered care does not need to be an exercise in futility nor an additional burden on an already heavily laden system.
Instead, by using data to help determine how to provide patient-centered care, the medical community can improve both the experiential aspects of care and the clinical outcomes for patients, often at a lower cost. This combination of benefits makes patient-centered care an appealing proposition for providers, administrators, funders, and patients alike.
Keep reading to find out how understanding patient needs could be the key to improved healthcare delivery systems and more cost-effective healthcare programs.
The IOM (Institute of Medicine), in their report on Crossing the Quality Chasm, defines patient-centered care as: “Providing care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.”
For a long time, it was not uncommon for any healthcare provider to question the validity of this practice – after all, the idea of focusing on patient preferences sounds like it could be in direct contradiction to the idea of evidence-based plans. And yet, according to the National Institutes of Health and other leading organizations, the impact of patient-centered care on outcomes is actually substantially positive.
Patient-centered care has been seen to decrease healthcare utilization, improve patient outcomes, and increase the quality of patient/provider relationships, which in turn has a number of potential benefits. As a result, it’s unsurprising that many stakeholders at various levels are beginning to ask questions about how to provide patient-centered care and how providing such care can improve outcomes.
The missing link here is simply connecting the dots from data and evidence-based practice models to the qualitative ideals of patient-centered care.
So how can data help us determine how to provide patient-centered care?
Measuring Patient Experiences – This is the first and most important step in moving toward patient-centered practice since studies have shown that providers and patients often have very different interpretations of what happened during a particular visit. Making sure patients are understanding care choices, feeling empathy from their provider, and getting their questions answered in an effective manner have proven to be key steps in optimizing care delivery. There is a lot of opportunity to measure and quantify the patient experience, and the more that this is done, the more progress we can make towards improving the quality of care itself.
Measuring Healthcare Utilization – One of the expected outcomes of patient-centered care is that healthcare use will decrease. “Doctors not engaged in patient-centered care often order expensive tests or referrals as a poor substitute for connecting well with their patients,” according to the Health Affairs blog, so eliminating these unnecessary tests in favor of more face-to-face time with patients is an important element of care improvement. Measuring these line items can also help your organization understand where it might be wasting time, both yours and your patient’s.
Tracking Patient Outcomes – It’s very clear that the healthcare industry has accepted the coexistence and mutual benefits of patient-centered care and evidence-based practices. This is extremely important because patient-centered care doesn’t mean abandoning evidence or not planning one’s service delivery improvements around improving outcomes. Instead, a focus on outcomes and an understanding of the evidence-based care models out there can help improve outcomes by allowing organizations to deliver more personalized and individualized treatment plans. This kind of thinking will also allow doctors to draw up treatment plans that patients will actually follow, based on information they have obtained about the patient. This intersection of patient-centric care and evidence-based practice is only one of the exciting possibilities of these advances, but it is no wonder why many feel like the healthcare industry is on the edge of an exciting new frontier.
Using data and tracking outcomes are not oppositional to providing patient-centered care. Instead, by combining evidence-based practices with patient-focused care, healthcare delivery systems can see costs cut, provider time better utilized, and most importantly, patient outcomes improved. And that sounds like a good deal all around.