Why we need person-centric health care
Have you ever thought what it would be like if you didn’t have a say in your healthcare but rather you were told?
Healthcare professionals do their best to ensure their patients’ needs are dealt with, with many going above and beyond to ensure their patients receive the best care in an environment that suits them.
However, in the past – and in other parts of the world – people have been expected to fit in with the routines and practices of those treating a person’s condition – to take the tablet prescribed and follow a regiment regardless of whether it fits with a person’s needs or beliefs.
What this practice can, and has created, is a generation of people unwilling to be active in their own healthcare – who would rather look for a cure or Band-Aid solution than be proactive in looking after themselves.
To explain this further I would like to tell you the story of Mrs Smith.
Let me be clear, this is a worst-case scenario and a story of a 71-year-old woman with a history of heart disease, diabetes, chronic pain and depression.
Mrs Smith hasn’t lived a lifestyle that assists in managing her conditions – preferring to make poor diet choices, smoke, drink high amounts of alcohol whilst also not monitoring her blood glucose levels.
Without intervention, her life expectancy is expected to drop significantly.
Mrs Smith knows she needs to change her lifestyle and be more proactive in her health care, however she does not feel empowered or motivated to do so.
While her healthcare professionals have communicated to her what she should do, she feels confused – confused about where to start and what it all means. As we know literacy is an issue in Tasmania and health literacy more so. Mrs Smith has poor skills in both these areas.
You may think this is an extreme example, but it is a scenario affecting many of those living in our local community with chronic disease.
As the health system expands we can often get caught up in the mechanical delivery of healthcare rather than personalised care and education.
And moreover, when a person struggles to manage their condition, it also places stress on our health system with increased readmission rates and length of stays at hospitals.
The health system does an amazing job to be able to deliver healthcare under this pressure.
Innovative practices like Newstead Medical in the state’s North are looking at alternative deliveries of care to take pressure off emergency departments through its proposed Urgent Care Centre.
Imagine the difference if Mrs Smith was at the centre of all the decisions made regarding her health and all decisions regarding her health were communicated to all her treating healthcare professionals.
Mrs Smith’s outcomes would be markedly different and having had more input into making sure her future care met her needs and desires, she would be more likely to stick to her care plan.
Person-centric care is not new in the health profession – and evidence suggests there are positive links between this approach and an individual’s clinical outcomes.
For example, let’s look at what Mrs Smith’s outcomes would be if she was assisted by a diabetes management nurse who helped her understand her condition, as well as being connected to other additional support services such as Diabetes Tasmania.
With this support, education and guidance Mrs Smith could learn why monitoring her blood glucose levels and eating healthy meals and snacks throughout the day is important for her health, rather than just being told she should do it.
She could take control of her own health by tracking her blood glucose readings on Snug – a mobile health app that St.LukesHealth will unveil to members next month – and set fitness goals to ensure she completed a number of steps each day.
Under this type of care, Mrs Smith would likely have a much more positive attitude to life. It would allow her to live out her dream to pack up the caravan and head to the mainland for a holiday to visit her grandchildren.
Being part of a health system that can impact someone’s life in such a positive way is rewarding for everyone involved.
Collaborative partnerships and communication really need to be at the centre of what we do.