It’s about the patient. Always.

Dr Karen Luxford, CEO, Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS) International, defines patient-based care and recommends strategies on how organisations can institutionalise this in their healthcare facilities.

The customer is king. In healthcare, patients are the customers and the royals for which hospitals should direct their services to. Patient-based care amplifies this intent.

Dr Karen Luxford, CEO, ACHS International

Patient-based or patient-centred care is “care that is delivered with patients in mind” and “treating patients as clients or customers,” defines Dr Karen Luxford, CEO at ACHS International. Regarding the patient as the most important person and extending this treatment to the patient’s family and carers is another way of looking at this highly important concept in healthcare.

Hospital Insights Asia sits down with Dr Luxford to further understand how crucial patient-centred care is in today’s healthcare ecosystem and how hospitals can institutionalise it in their facilities.

Full user experience

Addressing patients’ needs is what patient-centric care is about, which ultimately leads to targeting the quadruple aim of healthcare: lower cost, better outcomes, improved patient experience, and improved clinician experience. Some people may think these four are mutually exclusive, but Dr Luxford believes these aims work well together.

A substantial amount of research has shown improved patient outcomes in facilities that uphold patient-centred care. “They often report a lower number of incidents in safety and quality,” says Dr Luxford. Patients from these organisations, likewise, report improved clinical care and patient experience. On the system level, Dr Luxford notes that staff and clinician satisfaction with their work environment and the treatment they provide patients increases.

“It’s very important that we look across all these aims with a goal to be efficient, effective, safe, and patient-centric,” highlights Dr Luxford. Better patient outcomes, increased staff satisfaction, and improved patient experience then tie to the cost of healthcare. More importantly, ACHS International, over the years of accrediting healthcare organisations across the world, has noticed that organisations which have refocussed their care on patient-centricity are the high-performing institutions.

Learning from the best

What better way to institutionalise patient-centred care than learning from these high-performing organisations? Over the years, Dr Luxford has had the chance to spend time with and study these organisations, and what she has found is a common set of characteristics that contribute to their efficiency.

These organisations have the vision to put patients’ needs first and foremost, and they communicate this throughout the organisation. Part of this is the provision of support and resources to all staff, making sure they are properly and adequately trained. Likewise, they look at how to hold staff accountable for the kind of care they deliver.

More importantly, these organisations integrate patients and their families into all levels of the organisation, believing this is key to establishing a great partnership with them and allowing patients, their families, and their carers to have a voice as the organisation talks about its future.

A seat at the table

Several years ago, Dr Luxford met a family who sadly lost their child when a backup battery did not work on a cart in a transition between two hospitals. The family, because of the tragedy, wanted to work with the hospital to ensure the same unfortunate incident does not occur to other families. With policymakers, clinicians, healthcare services, patients, and families seated in one table, patients were given a stronger voice about their care and new initiatives about patient care have been rolled out.

This same kind of engagement also allows for clear and comprehensive communication. Albeit crucial, an efficient partnership between stakeholders is difficult to achieve as the system is mired in technical jargon. Addressing this then requires “making sure that we meet both sides and that we match the aims of a healthcare service with the aims of the patient, their families, and carers,” Dr Luxford suggests.

One way to do this is by providing patients with information at an “appropriate health literacy level” and recognising that medical jargon is not something that everyone can understand. In a way, patient-centric care like this also prevents medication errors as the rate of mistakes declines when information is clearly articulated to carers and patients.

Moreover, in today’s challenging times when patients’ needs have become too complex, the key to patient-based care is listening. Giving patients and their families a voice is one thing, but it’s more important to really listen to what they have to say. 

“The service is for the patients,” Dr Luxford emphasises, “and so listening to them as clients and customers of the services is critical.” We have to recognise that patients and families may want to interact in a different way, may not have time for committee meetings, so it is about understanding the desire of these families and how to accommodate customers and ensure there’s a balance.

Patients are the customers. For organisations, it is integral to note patient-centric care is not an extra or add-on, and this is one of the fundamentals to health servicing. Change management processes may be needed, but the first step to getting buy-in from stakeholders is really acknowledging that healthcare is and will always be about the patients.

About ACHS International

ACHS International is an independent, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to improving quality in health care. It represents governments, consumers, and peak health bodies from throughout Australia. ACHSI is Australia’s leading healthcare assessment and accreditation provider, and works with healthcare professionals, consumers, and government and industry stakeholders to develop and continually review health standards. The council has a presence around the world, with a strong focus in the Asia Pacific.