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What is Patient-Centered Care?

My practice has showed me 4 themes to practicing patient-centered care:

- Treating every patient like they are a family member.

- Practicing empathy.

- Meeting the patient where they are at and accepting what is.

- Repeat.

As pharmacists, we practice evidence-based medicine (EBM). We not only understand clinical trial data, but we also translate it into patient-friendly language. We are excellent communicators and strive to achieve optimal outcomes in all areas of pharmacy.

Even though these are all true, it may not always represent patient-centered care.

Here’s a basic example: JJ is a patient who we advised to return to their clinic for their next dose, a lab test, or a vaccination. When JJ completes this task, evidence proves that their risk of a negative complication is greatly reduced. Outcome metrics for the health-system improve. Our job satisfaction improves when JJ understands the importance of this task. We think it reinforces our ability to communicate and practice EBM.

If we look at JJ’s situation through a patient-centered lens, this is what we may see: Inability to take another day off of work to go to clinic. Lack of transportation to clinic. Our inability to communicate at their level of health literacy. We may see their culture; their desires; their fears.

When you practice with patients directly, you understand that our expectations of patients may not be patient-centered at all. You see the gray areas of healthcare that seem to be invisible to some decision-makers. You question whether some leaders in healthcare have ever looked through this lens– and if they did, did they follow these themes:

- Treat every patient like they are a family member.

- Practice empathy.

- Meet the patient where they are at and accepting what is.

- Repeat.

Practicing patient-centered care is not easy. It’s an intention. It’s not ignoring EBM; in fact, it’s offering an easier on-ramp for the patient to merge onto the EBM highway. It’s a desire to put our agendas aside in order for the patient to benefit. It’s a risk of upsetting the leaders who may not have the same lens as you. Treating every patient like they are a family member softens your approach and almost guarantees you will think of what’s in their best interest before other interests. Practicing empathy means that you understand how it’s different than sympathy and you commit to growing and improving as an empath. Meeting a patient where they are at is understanding that every patient may not be ready to exercise 60 minutes a day, 5 days a week AND helping them create a more realistic plan. Finally, the most important theme: you will repeat this practice with It may be exhausting. It may be contributing to our burnout. It may take more work than you realized. But our patients deserve it. What we have to ask ourselves: Who’s at the center of our practice, if not patients?

What are your themes for practicing patient-centered care? Comment below!

If you are interested in our most recent blog posts, check out our guest blog, Why the Profession of Pharmacy Needs to have an Entrepreneurial Mindset by Jaclyn Boyle.

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