By: Cassidy Fu
A focus on patient-centred care has always been difficult to fully achieve in the healthcare system, especially during healthcare crises such as the one we’re in now. Patient-centred care can be described as care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs and values that ensure that the patient’s values guide all the clinical decisions. There are eight dimensions regarding patient-centred care: the patient’s preferences, information and education, access to care, emotional support, family and friends, transition and continuity, physical comfort and coordination of care.
Regarding the dimension of information and education, technological advances have helped strengthen this dimension by providing accessible information found online through websites and other avenues. For example, the MotHERS program is a program that contains websites that aim to provide relevant and up-to-date information to expecting mothers regarding pregnancy and women’s health. Additionally, there are also videos and podcasts that people can listen to or watch to learn more about information relevant to patient care.
The current health crisis known as COVID-19 has negatively impacted other dimensions of patient-centred care, such as access to care, emotional support or the patient’s preferences. In the community health care setting, a study found a reduction in access to healthcare services such as mental health or preventative services. In the hospital setting, with COVID-19 patients requiring maximal and rapid care, other non-COVID patients that need to be in the ICU or need elective surgical care may have reduced access. In terms of emotional support, moving in-person walk-in clinic appointments to appointments through the phone may remove that personal touch and lose that connection formed between a physician and their patient face to face. Alternatively, there can be benefits of telephone appointments such as saving travel time and increasing easiness to access. PPE can also restrict the typical human touch and may not be conducive to compassionate discussions between the physicians and their patients. This would negatively impact the emotional support physicians normally provide patients. For example, a study found that PPE could pose as a barrier to compassionate end-of-life care. With patient’s preferences, those in long-term care homes or psychiatric care may have reduced ability to leave their rooms or see their family and friends due to the restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These restrictions can lead to increased feelings of social isolation and loneliness, leading to a negative impact on their physical and mental health. These restrictions may impede the patient’s preferences. Still, they are essential in helping protect these patients from the spread of COVID.
In times of a health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, many aspects of the healthcare system are negatively impacted, including patient-centred care. These are challenging times for all of us, especially patients and healthcare workers. Although some aspects of patient-centred care are negatively affected, efforts are being made to strengthen them and other aspects. The process of patient-centred care isn’t easy to achieve. Still, despite all the obstacles, such as a global pandemic that makes this process difficult, the key takeaway is that we’re always coming up with new solutions and initiatives to strengthen this process. With new technological advances, innovative ideas, and the perseverance to attain patient-centred care, I’m sure that we will be able to achieve it fully one day.