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Patient-Centered Care: Definition and Examples

April 14, 2024

A growing number of people believe that healthcare organizations can improve the quality of care they provide and the health outcomes of their patients by adopting a patient-centered care model. According to a study by NEJM Catalyst, several benefits have been linked to patient-centered care, including more trust between patients and providers, better patient-provider relationships, and better health outcomes. 

Healthcare and administration professionals with the right knowledge, education, and skills can help transform healthcare facilities to be more patient-centered. Here is an in-depth look at this care model, including the definition of patient-centered care, its benefits, and examples of how it can work in practice. 

What Is Patient-Centered Care?

Patient-centered care is a model for providing health care that focuses not only on the patient’s symptoms and medical history but also on the emotional, social, and financial factors that affect their life, as well as their values. It is often thought of as a partnership between a patient and a healthcare provider, in which the patient’s perspective is as important as that of the doctor or nurse. 

In patient-centered care, the patient and the patient’s family play an integral part in making decisions about the patient’s care and treatment. This approach is very different from the traditional top-down doctor-patient model in which the healthcare provider makes all the decisions on the patient’s behalf. 

Principles of Patient-Centered Care

The Picker Institute, a British healthcare research institute, developed eight core principles of patient-centered care to address and meet patients’ needs. These principles are as follows: 

  • Timely access to healthcare advice
  • Treatment by patient-trusted professionals
  • Care continuity and effective transitions
  • Family and caretaker involvement and support 
  • Transparent communication and emphasis on self-care
  • Respect for patient preferences and involvement in decision-making
  • Empathy and emotional support
  • Consideration of environmental and physical needs

Rather than focusing only on health outcomes as measured by medical professionals, patient-centered care places equal emphasis on caring for the patient at all stages of their diagnosis and treatment. For this reason, the patient-centered care definition encompasses not only the physician and patient but also all the other medical professionals and staff involved in caring for the patient. This includes nurse practitioners, administrative staff, and registrars. 

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Examples of Patient-Centered Care

A patient-centered care model can be applied in many different healthcare settings and involves collaboration among various types of practitioners. Some examples of patient-centered care follow.

Providing patient-centered care could include allowing a patient to choose when they have visitors at the hospital after a procedure. In the past, hospitals have dictated the available visiting hours. However, using a patient-centered model, the patient gets to choose who gets to visit and when. For example, a maternity ward could be organized to allow family members to spend time with a mother and baby at any time of day to promote the family’s well-being and bonding with the newborn.

Healthcare professionals can also practice patient-centered care by focusing on the patient’s current needs and circumstances, not just the outcome of a particular treatment or procedure. For example, a patient needing knee surgery can be given a customized pain medication prescription that takes into account their current and/or preexisting mobility and pain levels. This same individualized approach would also apply to the patient’s recovery after the surgery. Patient-centered care does not end after a hospital procedure but continues for as long as the patient needs it. 

How Does a Patient-Centered Care Model Benefit Practitioners and Patients?

There are numerous benefits to adopting a patient-centered care model. It can vastly improve patients’ health and lives, the lives of healthcare practitioners, and even the healthcare system overall. 

Benefits for Patients

As suggested by its definition, a patient-centered model helps patients feel listened to and cared for rather than automatically referred for further tests or treatment. The model shifts the focus away from metrics that measure only the success of a specific treatment and toward patients’ overall evaluation of the care they received. This means that what matters is how the patient is feeling for the duration of their interaction with the healthcare system, not just the outcome of a particular treatment. 

Patient-centered care also helps patients and their families cope with any psychological difficulties they may experience regarding their diagnosis or treatment, such as uncertainty or fear. 

It has been shown that patients who receive patient-centered care tend to have better health outcomes than those who do not. This is partly because the continuity of care that is essential to providing patient-centered care enables physicians to pay better attention to a patient’s overall health and well-being. When a doctor has known a patient for a long time, they are more likely to detect health problems early on, long before further diagnostics or treatment are necessary.

Benefits for Practitioners

The patient-centered care model benefits healthcare practitioners by allowing them to spend more time with patients and ultimately do their jobs better. Under some healthcare models, the number of patients practitioners see is rewarded over the quality of care they provide. This can result in heavier workloads and higher stress levels for practitioners, which makes them less able to deliver optimal care to all their patients. Centering care on patients can facilitate more individualized treatment that benefits practitioners as well as patients. 

Benefits for Healthcare Systems

The patient-centered model benefits the whole healthcare system by improving efficiency and reducing costs. By focusing on simpler solutions first, it can reduce the need for unnecessary tests and hospital referrals. This is not intended to deny further diagnostics or treatments to patients who need them, only to reduce the common practice of over-testing and over-referring patients who could get better care from their primary care provider.

Fostering a Patient-Centered Care Model

The process of changing current healthcare practices to adopt a patient-centered approach is complex and requires the cooperation of individuals at many different levels of a healthcare organization. Healthcare administrators can be part of that transformation by balancing patient-centered care with other priorities and ensuring that any system-level change increases efficiency and improves care outcomes. 

Those looking to contribute to the success of healthcare organizations should consider enrolling in Tulane University’s Online Master of Health Administration (MHA) program. Tulane’s program can give you the skills you need to make data-driven decisions that can have a measurable impact on a healthcare organization’s success. 

Learn more about the Online MHA program and how it can help you reach your goals in healthcare administration. 

Advance Your Public Health Career with an MHA Program

Pursue Your Degree Online From Tulane University
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Recommended Readings 

Population Health Management: A Healthcare Administration Perspective

What Are Patient Safety Indicators?

Ethics in Health Care: Improving Patient Outcomes


BMC Health Services Research, “How Can Healthcare Organizations Implement Patient-Centered Care? Examining a Large-Scale Cultural Transformation” 

Health Affairs, “Patient-Centered Care: What It Means and How to Get There”

NEJM Catalyst, “Getting to Patient-Centered Care in a Post-Covid-19 Digital World: A Proposal for Novel Surveys, Methodology, and Patient Experience Maturity Assessment”

NEJM Catalyst, “What Is Patient-Centered Care?”

Picker, “The Picker Principles of Person Centred Care”