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Patient-Centered Care: It’s Not Just a Buzzword

August 26, 2020

In health care policy research, we spend a lot of time considering provider incentives, payment arrangements, and regulations.

But sooner or later, each of us will be a patient and that’s when we remember that all of these mechanisms are really meant to support a health care delivery system that serves patients’ needs. Abt’s Jaclyn Rappaport chaired a panel on approaches to improving patients’ experiences in primary care settings at the 2020 AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting (ARM), which got me thinking about this topic.

The patient experience is inherently important to everyone who interacts with the health care system, including caregivers. Patient experience of care has been shown to lead to better adherence to treatment plans and disease management programs, and ultimately to improved health outcomes. As an added bonus, a positive patient experience is correlated with greater employee satisfaction among health care providers.

“In patient-centered care, an individual’s specific health needs and desired health outcomes are the driving force behind all health care decisions and quality measurements,” write authors at NEJM Catalyst. “Patients are partners with their health care providers, and providers treat patients not only from a clinical perspective, but also from an emotional, mental, spiritual, social, and financial perspective.”

Developing patient-centered care models extends beyond assessing patient experience to considering how to promote a comprehensive patient experience. Jaclyn’s ARM panel emphasized holistic approaches to primary care. Presenters reported on the positive association between comprehensiveness and patient outcomes. Panelists also discussed how integrating non-physician providers into primary care practices might increase comprehensiveness and improve patient outcomes. As Jaclyn noted, “The availability of comprehensiveness measures could help test new patient-centered staffing models that positively impact patient experience of care.”

That comment dovetails nicely with the approach Abt has been taking with our recent work. We believe the inclusion of patient perspectives is an important aspect of program evaluation, and key to developing patient-centered health care systems. For example, as part of an evaluation of the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement model, Abt mailed surveys to Medicare beneficiaries who had hip or knee replacement surgery. The surveys asked about their post-acute care experiences and recovery after hospital discharge. Our evaluation of the Accountable Care Organization Investment Model drew on existing Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey measures to describe the patients’ experience of care. And in evaluating the Accountable Health Communities model, Abt is conducting both surveys and telephone interviews with Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries to learn about their experience receiving assistance with locating community resources to meet their health-related social needs.

Abt’s mission to improve the health and wellbeing of people worldwide has always been based on data. Jaclyn’s panel was a valuable reminder that data is available fromand in support ofthe people who matter most: patients.

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