How Patient-Centered Care Can Improve Health Outcomes

May 04, 2017
Tagged with: How Patient-Centered Care Can Improve Health Outcomes

You may have heard the term “patient centered care” floating around recently. This refers to healthcare providers that give diagnoses and health recommendations based on a patient’s individual situation. Since health is the wellbeing of the body and mind, and everyone’s body and mind are unique, it seems odd that healthcare wouldn’t be patient-centered in the first place. Unfortunately, in the name of efficiency and profits, many healthcare providers default to making recommendations based on demographic information and other generalized data.

The Danger of a Default

In society, assuming a default “normal” type of person leads to people being excluded, and sometimes put in dangerous situations. In a doctor’s office, assuming a default can lead to death. It leads to doctors ignoring health concerns and saying “you just need to lose weight”, instead of looking for other underlying causes. It leads to doctors accusing people with pre-existing conditions like diabetes of failing to properly manage their conditions rather than listen to what they’re experiencing. It leads to doctors failing to effectively treat people because they’re not willing to look past superficial circumstances.

When doctors diagnose and treat according to generalized data rather than looking at a patient’s specific symptoms, habits, and experiences, they are bound to miss things. People who live with chronic conditions have often seen many medical specialists and know quite a bit about their conditions. For doctors to ignore their concerns and dismiss them under the guise of “you’re just not managing your condition properly” is not only condescending and usually inaccurate, but it’s also very dangerous and creates an even higher risk factor for people with ongoing health issues.

Seeing One Condition and Ruling Out Others

Take into account this example: Dani was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a young child. Now in her twenties, she has many ongoing health problems, including issues with her kidneys, spleen, and thyroid. It’s not uncommon for diabetes patients to experience these issues, but diabetes is not always the underlying cause. Her mom, a scientist, has asked doctors to perform tests for conditions that share the same symptoms, and it took them several tries to find a doctor who would, rather than just say “she needs to manage her blood sugar better.”

Knowing the connections between different conditions and symptoms is vital to providing quality medical care. But sometimes, doctors see the most visible condition, whether it’s obesity, diabetes, neurodiversity, or a physical disability, and they limit their diagnosis to related causes. Medical professionals need to be able to put aside their assumptions about specific diseases and look at a person as a whole, and not as that one condition. This can prevent them from ignoring the root cause of symptoms.

Patient-Centered Benefits Everyone

When medical professionals provide patient centered care, they become better for it. It allows them to look at situations for what they are, rather than place everyone in little boxes. It expands their medical knowledge and allows them to provide better care for their patients.  And of course, patients benefit because they are being guided with medical advice that is pertinent to them as an individual. This leads to people being able to take their health into their own hands and make educated decisions regarding their bodies. Overall, general data is very useful in spotting patterns and making new medical discoveries, but it should not be used as an individual diagnosis tool.

Author: Jeriann Ireland

  • bobl07

    Considering the issues that could be happening with the ACA, talking with your physician is very important.

  • Jeriann

    Absolutely! The more people hold their doctors accountable, the more the entire system can be informed about shortcomings.

  • Felicia

    Overall, general data is very useful in spotting patterns and making new medical discoveries, but it should not be used as an individual diagnosis tool.