Patient-centered care shouldn’t just be a marketing slogan

by Trudy Lieberman
Rural Health
News Service

Patient-centered care is a buzz phrase that’s all the rage in healthcare circles. It goes by a lot of different names like patient engagement, patient activation, and shared-decision making.

If care is truly patient-centered, it revolves around eight principles identified in research by the Harvard Medical School and the Picker Institute.

They include respect for patient preferences, coordination of care, information and education, physical comfort, emotional support, involvement of family and friends, continuity and transition, and access to care.

What passes for patient centered care falls short for a lot of people.

Often patient engagement has come to mean selling things, particularly tools and devices, that purport to help patients manage their care. During the man’s many calls with the supplier the company tried to sell him knee and back braces, advising that Medicare would pay if he got a doctor’s prescription.

Last year I was invited to attend a panel discussion about innovations in patient engagement. The room was full of young marketers eager to sell their products and share the best ways to reach patients. Since the term patient engagement is so slippery, it wasn’t surprising the program began with a discussion of what it actually meant.

One panelist offered this definition: “It really has to do with how can you get patients to do more or become more active in the ecosystem about their health.” Another said, “Let’s think of patient engagement as a marketplace. How are they engaged in the marketplace?

Perhaps he meant that people like a man I met who needed an insulin pen pronto would be “engaged” enough to buy a leg brace he did not need.

That’s not to say patients shouldn’t be active in their care. Growing evidence suggests that patients who are more actively involved have better health outcomes. But that doesn’t mean profit-seeking providers should be pushing unnecessary care, pills, or devices onto patients.

I recently got a letter called a Care Consideration from Aetna, my supplemental insurer. It said, “This information was identified to support you in working with your doctor to improve your health.” The letter was a not-so subtle push to take a statin for heart disease.

There was just one problem. At my last physical less than a year ago my cholesterol was “excellent,” as it always has been. No medication required.

Pushing a drug and trying to overrule my doctor does not qualify as patient engagement.


Most recent cover pages:














Copyright 2009-2018 The Plymouth Review, All Rights Reserved

Contact Information

113 E. Mill St., Plymouth WI 53073
Local: 920-893-6411 Toll Free: 1-877-467-6591
Fax: 920-893-5505












Harvest Festival