Top 4 Mistakes in Patient-Centered Ambitions


Being patient-centered is all the rage! Every stakeholder in the healthcare ecosystem, from hospitals, to pharma, to digital health innovators, is emphasizing their commitment to being “Patients First”.

But what does it mean to be patient-centered? The definition varies depending on the eye of the beholder. Each stakeholder must be careful to establish a solid understanding of what being patient-centered truly means or risk falling victim to the latest trendy buzzword. Have you gotten caught in the web of these top 4 patient-centered misconceptions?

Don’t get caught in the web of patient-centered misconceptions! Photo: Michael Podger via Unsplash

Misconception #1: “We’re all patients.”

Often a common declaration from the podium or panel, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The word “patient” is a general, catch-all term. Replace the word “patient” with “person with a diagnosis” and you profoundly change the definition.

There is a distinct difference between the person who visits an urgent care clinic for strep throat vs. the person with advanced cancer who is told that they no longer respond to treatment. There is a clear difference between the person who goes to the emergency room with a broken arm vs. the person who lives with a chronic disease on a daily basis. Both patients? Yes, but explicitly unique in their experiences, preferences, values, and needs. Are you focusing on understanding the person, the human, with the diagnosis?

We’re NOT all patients; look deeper, look inside. Photo: Cody Davis via Unsplash

Misconception 2: “Patients are consumers.”

Patients are interchangeably referred to as consumers, another catch-all term that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Patients do not have the same freedoms as consumers. “But they spend their money on healthcare!” you say. That’s because they are trying to SURVIVE.

People with a diagnosis are not practicing consumerism but rather survival. Photo: Vladislav M via Unsplash

Consumers have:

· access to information.

· price transparency.

· opportunities to price shop.

· ability to perform transactions remotely, electronically, even through voice command.

· have the option to expedite and customize purchases.

· transactions performed in a neutral to positive state of mind.

· access to price reductions and sales. When’s the last time you saw a sale in healthcare? Have you seen a blowout black Friday sale advertising buy one MRI, get one 50% off? Insurance plans 30% off today? NEVER.

· the ability to return/exchange items and services they are not satisfied with. Anyone ever get a refund for a biopsy that yielded inconclusive results? How about charges incurred due to a misdiagnosis? How about a refund for that medication that you aren’t responding to? NOPE.

Patients are incorrectly labeled as consumers. Individual’s interactions with the healthcare system are better defined as survival. How does this change your perspective?

Misconception #3: “We have patient-centered initiatives, metrics, practices”.

What is your purpose in healthcare? Photo: Ian Schneider via Unsplash

Being patient-centered is not a strategy. It isn’t a marketing tactic or a line item on a budget. It isn’t a metric on a patient satisfaction survey. As pharma, innovators, and healthcare organizations commit to being patient-centered, it is critical to recognize that this isn’t an ideology to implement just because “everybody else is doing it’, to look “aligned”, or to prevent being a “late adopter”.

Being truly patient-centered requires a cultural transformation. It requires a commitment to human-centered care. It requires striving towards meaningful relationships both within organizations and through the delivery of patient care. It starts with leadership. It starts with the C-suite. It starts with you. It starts with me. It is not uni-directional effort or scope. It is rooted in compassion. It recognizes empathy as an essential executive leadership skill. It’s being able to embrace suffering and tackle it head on in all of our work. It means a commitment to a purpose.

One purpose that is often missed is the need to bring people with a diagnosis back to their pre-diagnosis life, or as close as possible to it. What is your purpose in healthcare right now?

Misconception #4: “Disruption will bring patient-centricity.”

Less disruption, more collaboration? Photo: My Life Through A Lens via Unsplash

There are so many within the healthcare ecosystem looking to “disrupt”. Perhaps we’ve already missed the mark? Disruption is often motivated by competition, the desire to be first in class, recognition, fame, and financial rewards. Disruption does not necessarily lead to universally accessible and implementable improvement. Disruption often drives advancement of a single company’s product or platform, not necessarily the advancement of patient care as a whole.

Whether intentionally or not, disruption often leads to exclusivity and additional barriers.

Healthcare needs enhancement. To enhance, we must augment what exists. Enhancement beckons for collaboration. Collaborative efforts require sharing the spotlight, in times of advancement and failure. Commitment to enhancement requires accepting that not every advancement will yield the most lucrative of financial returns. Collaboration requires humility rather than fame or legacy. Do not mistake collaboration for weakness. Collaboration is powerful and fosters connectivity. Collaboration always leads to progress of a greater magnitude in comparison to a single-entity.

Patient-centricity is not the key. A consistent commitment to compassionate, collaborative purpose to enhance lives is a start. How committed, aligned, and on-board are you with that?

Is it time for you to change what you are committed to? Photo: Ross Findon via Unsplash

Grace Cordovano, PhD is a private cancer patient advocate and patient experience enhancer. Follow her on Twitter @GraceCordovano

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