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How can healthcare organizations make the shift to effective patient-centric care?

Creating patient-centric value requires coordinating and optimizing care both within and across medical, social, mental health, functional and pharmaceutical disciplines.

Across healthcare, we love talking about the value of patient centricity. Regulators, physicians, commentators and patient advocates alike all agree that a focus on patients is critical. Creating greater value for patients and the system at large requires a holistic view of the individual and the system itself. Yet, industry-wide progress continues to lag. What, then, is necessary to genuinely put patients at the center of care?

Patient-centric value is created by anticipating patient needs when possible, providing coordinated care at the optimal cost that results in optimal clinical outcomes and delighting the patient and family throughout the care experience.

As I see it, the key ingredients to reach these lofty goals are the following:

Coordinated care that crosses disciplines and sites

Patients often have issues in other areas of their lives that prevent medical care from being as effective as it can be. Creating patient-centric value requires coordinating and optimizing care both within and across medical, social, mental health, functional and pharmaceutical disciplines. Just think what would happen if a senior is sent home from the hospital and is socially isolated with limited access to transportation and in need of food and prescription refills?

Patient-centric care must be coordinated among all these disciplines, be logistically sound and be assured across the care continuum. We see this problem occur too often with patients. For instance, a 68-year-old woman with metastatic breast cancer goes to her local emergency room complaining of increased pain. She is discharged to follow-up with her primary care physician (PCP) and given new pain prescriptions. Typically, patients like these are unable to see their PCP or oncologist for timely follow-up and must return to the ER or be admitted to the hospital for persistent symptoms. With coordinated care across disciplines and sites, this woman’s visit to the ER and prescription for new medicine could have triggered alerts to a case manager to contact the patient and set a care center or home visit for medication adjustment and care coordination.

Infrastructure, data, and analytics

To put patients at the center of care, we need investment in infrastructure and broad data acquisition to create robust clinical, operational and financial analytics. Data analytics at the patient level can help anticipate patient needs, coordinate and assure optimal acute and preventative patient care continually across disciplines and sites, as well as, direct workflows to address non-medical issues and concerns. These insights can inform the care team about how individual patients and their caregivers prefer to communicate, as well as help develop best practices that engage patients and caregivers.

Unfortunately, too often, data is siloed within the healthcare system whether it is at health plans, hospitals, doctor’s offices, community services or government entities. Accessing that data—internalizing and analyzing it—is a key determinant in creating patient-centric value. A very simple example is one of a care organization having real-time access to pharmacy information. For instance, this could occur for a patient who needs antiretroviral medication for HIV symptoms but misses a medication refill due to lack of transportation. When a critical medication is not filled or picked up in time, the right infrastructure could enable an alert that would drive workflows to immediately reach out to the patient or caregiver, instructing them to pick up the medication or have it delivered. The alert could also drive a case manager to understand the reasons why the medication was not obtained and solve those and any other pending issues.


Creating patient-centric value requires the health care entity charged with the health of the population and the individual patient to work effectively and efficiently. It sounds simple but actually is not. The responsible entity must have a care-driven mission, strong business and clinical leadership, and an experienced staff. Strong and effective workflows, business processes, and measurement capabilities must be instituted and all must result in defined clinical, operational and financial outcomes.

Consumer focus

We need to pay unrelenting attention to the patient as a consumer. This starts with a consumer-focused company culture led by a committed executive team. Other important components include multichannel communications and an empowered cross-disciplinary consumer interaction staff that includes skilled clinicians who are continually participating in ongoing improvement programs. In addition, automating and personalizing touch points through data analytics will help create positive consumer journeys that lead to an overall successful consumer experience.

Ultimately, the picture we envision of patient-centric care is of satisfied patients whose healthcare journey was inclusive, coordinated and compassionate—resulting in optimal health care value. Together, we can bring that picture to life by taking a holistic view of the patient. We will need to provide care and services across multiple disciplines and locations using the best analytics and data available, while being led by organizations who are solely focused on the needs of patients and their caregivers. If we succeed, we can create a health care journey that keeps each patient, their family and friends delighted with the care they receive. And, when all is said and done, isn’t that the most important barometer of value?

Photo: Getty Images

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