What Matters Most: Patient-Centered Care
As the nation’s healthcare system moves from volume- to value-based care and increased engagement with patients, there is a new emphasis on patient-centered care. Healthcare providers are beginning to see their patients less as a medical diagnosis and more as an individual person with a life and needs beyond a diagnostic billing code.
What is patient-centered care? The Institute for Healthcare Improvement defines it as “putting the patient and the family at the heart of every decision and empowering them to be genuine partners in their care.”
Nowhere is that concept more important than in hospice and palliative care. In fact, it is the very foundation of the specialty.
Caring for the Whole
Hospice and palliative care treat the person rather than the disease and focus on quality of life. Medical professionals manage not only a person’s physical symptoms, such as pain and respiratory distress, but the multi-disciplinary team also addresses psychosocial, emotional, and spiritual needs that patients may be facing throughout their journey.
“It is the job if not the mission of the hospice/palliative care medical director not to see disease and organ systems when they look at a patient,” says Walter George, MD, Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care’s Senior Vice President for Physician Education and Services. “Instead, (we) take a holistic view of the entire patient that encompasses not only his urgent medical needs, but also his or her own unique emotional, psychological, spiritual and family needs.”
For example, he says, if pain isn’t adequately treated it can become a hospice patient’s dominant focus. This can rob them of the chance to move on and tend to more emotional or spiritual issues to ensure a dignified and peaceful end of life.
By encircling a patient and family with a team of professionals ready to help with all aspects of their care, engaging them in making informed decisions, and controlling their own care plan, patient-centered care builds important trust among patients and providers.
“In palliative care and hospice, patients often feel a loss of control over their body due to terminal diagnoses and chronic diseases,” says Brittney Owens, a palliative care social worker at Crossroads in Kansas City. “Patient-centered care reminds them they are in control over their decisions, environment, service providers, and so much more.”
Changing the Conversation
Patient-centered care changes the conversation between healthcare providers and patients from “What’s the matter with you?” to “What matters most to you?”
“A hospice/palliative medical director must relate to the whole patient as a human being, probe what is passionate to that patient on his end of life journey, identify what symptoms stand in the way of pursuing those passions, and treat them so effectively that the patient is then free to pursue whatever unfinished business that needs to be attended to in the finite time left,” Walter says.
Elevating the conversation from the disease to the human experience empowers patients to honor what is sacred to them on their journey and live life to the fullest. By engaging patients in honest, candid conversations about their goals and fears, Crossroads specialists create deeply personalized care plans based on truly informed consent. Called the Crossroads Gift of Courage, these inspired care conversations help patients work through the strong emotions that go along with receiving a chronic or terminal prognosis so they can make active decisions about how they live in the time they have left.
Patients and their families aren’t the only ones who benefit from patient-centered care. It adds dimension to healthcare providers’ practice as well.
“In hospice, patient-centered care provides comfort, not only to patients and their families,” says Rhonda Bullmaster, hospice social worker at Crossroads in Kansas City, “but also to me as a social worker, knowing that my patients have been provided the dignity of choice during their end of life journey.”
To learn more about the patient-centered care that Crossroads provides to patients at end of life, please call 1-888-564-3405.
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