The status quo fee-for-service model isn’t working. It perpetuates a sick-care approach focused on treating the symptoms or one issue but not the whole individual. And that perpetuates a cyclical system of care, one where patients aren’t getting better, and providers very quickly burn out.

Person-centered care has emerged as an important counterbalance to that trend. And it is transforming the healthcare industry.

What is person-centered care?

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Person-centered care is an approach that actively involves the patient in their healthcare journey. It’s fundamentally different from the care patients receive in a fee-for-service model because there’s much less emphasis on the fee part of the equation and much more emphasis on the service aspect. That then leads to more engaged patients and better health outcomes overall.

And it all starts with the provider

Providers who emphasize person-centered care apply a care team approach, in which all of the healthcare professionals within their practice — from the provider to the nurse to the health coach and, sometimes, to the behavioral health coach — operate at their highest skill set. And they put the patient front and center, treating them as a whole person and ensuring they get exactly what they need.

What is advanced primary care?

If you maintain the same point of focus — the individual patient in your care — but zoom out, you encounter advanced primary care. This type of care is all about taking care of whole populations. It’s the umbrella under which person-centered care fits.

On the surface, they may seem like two separate directives: to take care of one person vs. a whole population. And, in a way, they are.

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But when you’re focused on the individual people within a specific population or context — a certain socioeconomic status, for instance — you’ll improve the health of the entire population. That is, your approach to one patient and what they need may share characteristics with your approach to others within that population.

The idea is to integrate the two — the individual and the population as a whole — and tailor your care accordingly.

A holistic approach to medicine

So, while person-centered care starts with the individual, it takes a holistic view of caring for that individual. That then ultimately leads to better health outcomes, not just for that individual but for the entire population.

And the effects of this approach to healthcare reverberate throughout society.

Some concrete examples include:

  • Providers become relationship-builders: This is contrary to the fee-for-service model, in which sporadic appointments, long wait times, short in-person visits are the norm. A person-centered care approach is driven by the relationship providers form with their patients. Care can then be tailored to a person’s specific needs.
  • Patients become more engaged/proactive: It’s human to want to be seen and heard. No one wants to feel like a number or like they’re being put through the motions. So, when they truly feel as if someone is listening to them, they’ll open up and start to take an active interest in working with the provider to improve their health.
  • Providers start to see the results of their work: Providers have the time to dedicate to each patient, so they can see what works and what doesn’t. They can apply the same strategies to tailor their approaches to other patients. And the tangible results that will produce can lead to greater job satisfaction and lower burnout rates.
  • Patients regain confidence in primary care providers: With the fee-for-service model, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of patient engagement and relationship-building. Patients start to prioritize experience and convenience over their overall health because that’s what healthcare providers are incentivizing them to do. With a person-centered care approach, patients begin to see the value of having a primary care provider.
  • The entire community benefits: As the effects compound and more people see better health outcomes, the community as a whole is more invested in their health and, overall, engaged in healthier lifestyles.

Moving away from the traditional fee-for-service model isn’t easy. It will take time to adjust and to put together a team of nurses, coaches, and staff who are on board. But there are real, tangible benefits. And the stakes couldn’t be higher: medicine and healthcare are centered around improving people’s health and overall quality of life.

Take the first step by relearning how to empathetically listen to your patients. When you listen, they feel seen and heard, and you develop trust. That will build during every single visit thereafter. Learn more about why empathetic listening is vital and how your practice can provide it — download our white paper: How Empathetic Listening Improves Primary Care Patient Outcomes.

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