Patient and Family-Centered Care: What to Know

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If you've ever spent time in a hospital setting or have friends or loved ones who work as physicians or caregivers, you may have heard the term "patient-centered care" used to describe a growing movement in the healthcare industry. While patient-centered care may seem like an oxymoron (you may even be asking yourself, shouldn't all health care be patient-centered?), this is actually a relatively new model that shifts the care focus from a particular disease or condition to a more overarching approach.

Patient and family-centered care means ensuring that the perspective of each individual patient and those closest to them are at the heart of every decision healthcare providers make, resulting in patients who are empowered to become active participants in their own healthcare plans. Studies show that the quality of the physician-patient relationships can have a big impact on both health outcomes and patient satisfaction.

In making the commitment to putting patients first, providers are agreeing to provide an exceptional experience of care that is always safe, effective, on-time, efficient, equitable, and respectful of what is important to the individual patient.

Specific patient-centered actions practiced by leaders and team members that you can look for include:

  • Bedside Handoff. It is important that patients and their loved ones are involved and understand the plan for their care. If you or a loved one are hospitalized, nurses will involve you and your family in reviewing your condition and plan of care at the start of every shift. This conversation occurs at right at your bedside, and provides you with the opportunity to participate in your care plan, ask your nursing team questions and address any concerns, and review the day or evening ahead. When patients and caregivers partner and effectively communicate, anxiety related to understanding what is happening is decreased, while teamwork and communication among nurses is strengthened. Most importantly, when the patient and family are involved in the team handoff conversation, the best care outcomes are achieved.
  • Communication About Medications. Many patients have medications added, adjusted, or discontinued during a hospitalization or physician office visit. Communicating about medications is critical to a positive patient experience and care outcome. Patients and their families need to know what medication they are being prescribed and why they are taking it, to understand what side effects may occur while taking a particular medication, and what to do if a side effect does occur. By using a ‘Teach-Back’ approach to help patients understand their medications, patients are more likely to use medications safely.
  • Hourly Rounding. When patients are made the first priority, they should always feel safe and cared-for. By proactively rounding or visiting every hour during the day and every two hours at night, nurses can proactively fulfill routine requests that oftentimes result in a patient feeling the need to use the call-light. Nurses should strive to demonstrate their availability to you and their readiness to anticipate your needs.
  • No Pass Zones. This policy ensures that all team members are empowered to not pass by patient call lights without acknowledging, answering, or resolving the patient's need.
  • Nurse & Leadership Rounding. It's important for nurse and department leaders to also check in on the patients under the care of their unit. Leaders of departments that actively support an exceptional care experience, such as Food and Nutrition Services or Environmental Services and other senior leaders, can also 'round’ with patients and staff on the inpatient or outpatient areas they serve. Information collected during the rounding session helps us to learn and understand how well teams are meeting service expectations and to address any issues quickly.

Creating an outstanding overall patient experience involves many people and steps – the most important of which is creating positive, professional relationships between doctors and patients. These are just a few of the things you can look for to evaluate whether your healthcare provider is truly upholding their commitment to provide patient-centered care!

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