By Dr. Jill Murphy, DPT, LAT, CSCS
Patient-centered care is providing care that is valuable and meaningful to each patient. It means providing care that is respectful of patients’ perspectives, needs, and values, ensuring that the individual patient’s values guide all treatment decisions. Involving the patient in their care to the extent that each patient desires is critical to the provision of patient-centered care. While the thought of patients gaining greater influence into their care and treatment decisions along with easier access to their medical records may seem off-putting or even a bit threatening, early adaptation to the idea of patient-centered care has its advantages.
First, patients who are more involved in their care and self-refer to your practice are more compliant, starting with showing up for their visit. They are more likely to follow through on physician suggestions for improved health, including difficult changes in lifestyle. Wouldn’t you love a schedule full of patients who are waiting for your advice and actually follow it? What a great way to prevent burn-out as a physician by having a practice that attracts self-motivated patients!
Open notes is also part of providing patient-centered care. Physicians who directly share their notes (not discharge summaries) with their patients report improved communication, stronger, more trusting relationships with patients, and improved patient safety, all without increasing workload. This improvement in patient relationship holds true for all patients, including those with limited education and poor health. When patients contact their physicians after reading their notes, 25% of the time it is to correct a critical error. Sharing your notes immediately with patients improves transparency, contributing to the feeling of teamwork and inclusivity between you and your patient while reducing the risk of litigation. It also serves as a reminder for specific details shared at the visit, such as medication changes and the need to schedule an upcoming physical, cancer screening, or immunization. Given the need for accurate information about their health, sharing your notes with your patients is the key to promoting shared decision-making, one of the basic tenets of patient-centered care.
The trend of patients as consumers is not going anywhere. While the trend may provoke heartburn for some clinicians, patients are seeking information to be on the same page as their physician so they can better understand their health problem(s) and carefully follow “doctor’s orders.” When patients are given this information, they have a better sense of autonomy and are more likely to follow through with self-care, improving health outcomes.