The new movement in medicine is towards patient-centered care. This trend acknowledges the sad reality of how far away we must be from what really should be a standard. Isn’t patient-centered care just common-sense care? And what is at the center of medical care now if it’s not the patient?
Our medicine is focused on treating diseases, and we have doctors for each body part. We understand the physical aspect of the disease so much better than 10 or 20 years ago. But we are not just physical beings, and a human is more than a sum of its’ parts. Being unwell or ill is a deeply personal experience that involves more than just physical symptoms. It’s an emotional and often spiritual experience that changes how we view ourselves and the world; it’s an experience that could change the rest of our lives.
When we become seriously ill, we might have to deal with hope and disappointment, fear of the unknown, and coping with pain. We might have to deal with the loss of our former healthier selves and the loss of a habitual lifestyle. The disease might make us dependent on others and strain personal relationships. There are also decisions that we have to make along the way, about treatment options and their implications for our lives and well-being.
For each person, this experience is unique. Yet solutions offered by our medicine are generic, and the personal aspect of being sick is often overlooked. Patient-centered care means taking time to listen and respect each patient’s goals and preferences. It also means discussing how different treatment options could affect their quality of life. This approach to medical care would lead to medical decisions that are in the best interest of the patient and reflect the patient’s experience, values, and lifestyle. Hopefully, patient-centered care gains momentum and becomes the new normal. Because it’s really just common sense!
- by Nina Rubinstein