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Putting Patient-Centered Care Into Perspective

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media, May 2, 2011

I write about healthcare all the time, and as CFOs you live and breathe it. However, if you aren't looking at your hospital or health system through the eyes of a patient, then no matter what your role in the C-suite, you're missing the future of healthcare.

Everyone in healthcare knows all about the rising cost of care, and how patients and payers in the U.S. pay double for average care, while in countries like Australia the cost is less and the outcomes better. Could it be, in other countries, something other than reimbursement drives the system?

Before I continue with that train of thought, let me recount a very personal story. Last July was the first time I was ever admitted into a hospital. Although it was for a very happy reason—to give birth to my son—it was also quite scary. As I lay in the hospital bed in one of New England's largest and most well-known healthcare facilities, I was awash with mixed emotions and adrenaline. I was excited to meet my son, yet fearful of the pending C-section.

Just an hour before my surgery, two anesthesiologists entered my room and rattled off choices on which drugs I could have; what the ramifications of the drugs could be; how each anesthetic is administered, and a host of other details. Then they asked which drug I wanted and put a consent form in front of me to sign.

Now to the hospital's credit, they had given me some literature to read prior to the physician's arrival—and I did read it—but even for my education and healthcare background, the adrenaline got the better of me. My brain was a swirl; and the physicians standing in front of me trying to clarify details actually confused me more.

Now I applaud the physicians for speaking to me like an intelligent person, but the fact is at that moment I wasn't operating to the height of my intellect. So I looked at both doctors and sheepishly said, "I'm really not clear about anything you just told me, or how you will be doing it. Could you draw me a picture?"

Although I felt like a child for having to ask them to literally draw me a diagram, they complied with my request. The visual aid helped put the information into context and gave me a chance to process it. Then I asked them for 15 minutes of time before I signed the form. It was then that they pushed back. They told me they couldn't wait or the procedure might be delayed.

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1 comments on "Putting Patient-Centered Care Into Perspective"


stefani (5/20/2011 at 10:57 AM)
Great article but a little naive. Patient centered care DOES require a major cultural shift and that includes the physicians. Unfortunately the reality - especially is small rural, community hospitals - precludes any effort on the part of the physicians to start thinking of their practice behaviors from the patient's perspective. And its typically supported by hospital execs who want to keep the beds filled. As long as physicians control the sandbox, they pretty much run the playground. The successful CEO - and I admit there are plenty - is the one who agrees to share the sandbox to keep the playground running smoothly.