Want to make patients better partners in their care? Physicians group offers 4 guiding principles

A mature woman physician consulting with a patient in the doctor's office.
Videos, written materials and other tools can allow patients and families to review information before making a decision, according to ACP guidelines for engaging patients in their care. (Getty/Ridofranz)

Patient-centered care requires including their voices in care decisions. So the American College of Physicians has issued a series of principles designed to make those conversations more effective.

The four guidelines were developed by the ACP’s Patient Partnership in Healthcare Committee (PPHC), which includes patients, clinicians and pharmacists. The group surveyed patients and providers to build the principles, in addition to reviewing previous research.

Getting patients more engaged in their care ultimately impacts patient outcomes, Ana María López, M.D., ACP president, told FierceHealthcare.

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“Given the complexity of illness today this partnership not only improves health outcomes, it does so in the most clinically effective way and at the lowest cost,” she said.

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The principles outlined by the committee are:

  1. Treat patients and their families with respect and dignity.
  2. Include patients and families as active partners in care planning.
  3. Patients and families should play a role in reforming and improving delivery systems.
  4. Bring the patient voice into medical training and education.

López said the goal was to offer a “how to” approach to a concept that providers are already trying to embrace. The first point, for example, is something that patients expect from their care experiences and can significantly impact satisfaction, according to the study.

While being kind and considerate to patients and having open conversations with them about care planning may be expected pieces to provide patient-centered care, López said it’s important for providers to remember that they “learn best” from patients, and that includes trainees in residency and established physicians.

“I always say to the students, ‘After the patient encounter, ask the patient if it’s OK to ask for some feedback,’” she said. “Ask how you did and what you could have done better. It’s how we learn.”

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López said providers should begin with making it clear that providing patient-centered care is on each team member and is a crucial part of the culture. Active listening and avoiding complex jargon and medical lingo can facilitate discussions with patients on how they view their care and the health system more broadly, she said.

Videos, written materials and other tools can allow patients and families to review information before making a decision, and can be useful aids, she added.

“The main message is: ‘We are all in this together,’” López said.