Is 'Patient-Centric' A Myth?

Is patient-centricity a real thing? At the point of care, when the patient and their care team come together, what does patient-centricity really mean?

The Term (And The Problem)

If you think about organizational design, the corporation’s divisions could be positioned around customer needs. Although it sounds considerate, even Starbucks doesn’t do it, and they’re kind of known for loyal customers, so it’s probably an organizational reach goal, if anything.

Health care and life-science service providers may say that since the patient receives their service, patient-centricity means providing that service in the most considerate and comprehensive way possible. “Putting the patient at the center” says that patient needs are considered above all else.

But is this a realistic strategy? There are definitely other considerations in the doctor’s office, like it or not, and some choices will recognize other priorities, such as responsible safety protocols and efficiencies that enable better management of population health. We don’t want those chosen by popular vote, right?



Don’t get me wrong, patients today need all the help they can get to manage their health care. Premiums, coupons, deductibles, coverage, and exchanges can leave even the most determined patient confused and apprehensive when faced with an unexpected diagnosis or difficult treatment plan.

But the point of care is a moment of truth for more than just the patient. The physician is dealing with packed schedules, challenging electronic medical record systems, and “less-than-engaged” patients. While the payer is faced with a fixed set of funds to allocate in the best manner to deliver the highest quality care and value for their covered lives. These needs matter, too.

So we should be managing and optimizing the entire experience, when the patient, doctor, care team, and even insurance company come together at the point of care. 

Where We’re Going

The best point of care experiences reflect this thoughtfulness. They exhibit the careful planning that’s required to deftly juggle a host of important factors, like:

  • The context and goals of the players (their “jobs to be done”)
  • Their tensions and frustrations
  • The available artifacts in the environment (are they all carrying smartphones?)
  • Shared past history and other givens.

Some great examples of aspects of healthcare experience planning include:

  • Interactive and immersive experiences: screens, tablets, charts, and even office furniture that responds and supports care.
  • Content-driven experiences that use story-telling to lure you in. They use episodic and progressive messaging that gets people more engaged instead of broadcasting taglines.
  • Services that recognize, customize and personalize the experience for participants when they re-encounter them after the first interaction.

This kind of care gives the all players the opportunity to reconnect and check in on their progress together. Now, the health care provider can make a more positive impact on their patient’s health. The payer can help motivate and inspire the provider and patient to work together in ways that increase the quality of care. 

In the end, yes, patients benefit. But if you only asked them what they wanted, you’d never even think to hook grandma up to one of these Virtual Reality things

And that might be the point.

The Point

I’m not saying to throw out the concept of patient centricity. But it’s only a part of the entire experience to be defined, planned, and managed. Point of care can be part of an overarching strategy that respects the emotional realities and context of everyone involved in the experience.

The doctor’s office is a critically important inflection moment. In many cases it might be the only place where patients are actually focused on and thinking about their health. But there are many characters in the story – each with their own motivations, needs, and destiny. 

To serve only the patient at this moment doesn’t do it justice. This is not the moment to do only as asked. It’s a moment to differentiate – to attempt and achieve lofty goals, and to build together the kind of experience that benefits all the stakeholders participating at the point of care.

3 comments about "Is 'Patient-Centric' A Myth?".
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  1. richard nordstrom from liberate ideas inc, April 6, 2016 at 10:30 a.m.

    Interesting read Jay. Like most business channels today, healthcare is changing rapidly as technology and innovation drive metrics and accountability. Healthcare Professionals are moving slowly to adopt their pratice of medicine to the new realities of the emerging business model. Patient centricity and the focus on the 'customer' is a now a reality for medicine just as it is in restaurant's, service organizations, etc. Improving the patient experience as they travel the path on their personal health journey has to be a focus because thats the new accountable care reward system.

    We think education and patient understanding is core to the success of a patient centric approach. everyday more and more HCP's are joining the Liberate Health revolution to help them in their quest to engage patients in a more meaningful way to improve outcomes and their patient satisfaction scores!

  2. Jay Denhart-Lillard from Karma Health Partners, April 6, 2016 at 1:14 p.m.

    Thanks for your comment, Richard. I agree that as incentives require more accountablility for patient satisfaction, organizations have to respond to this new reality. Your proposal of your question and revolution is well put, and a great rallying cry.

    My only issue with Patient-centricity as a concept is that it can be interpreted incompletely, and leave out other actors in the point of care who have their own agendas and incentives as well. I think that if you take a close look at the most successful restaurant and service companies who are leading the way, they manage to ensure that the customers needs are met, while also spending focus and reasources on their own employees and vendors, to bring them along as well and make the experience positive and productive for all involved.

    Thanks again for joining the conversation! 

  3. Norman Duncan from Social Science consultant, April 6, 2016 at 3:25 p.m.

    Norman Duncan, Chair of a caregivers patient education organization.
    I realize the necessary for an integrated management of a patient and the caregiver, but Medicare's reimbursement restraints on a doctors time for each patient is a detriment to the values being discussed.  Medicare must be brought into the fold but the problem when a patient is on pallative care they do not consider any subsistance efforts to make the patient more comfortable to employ other assets that would provide patient comfort.

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