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Is Your Physician Patient-Centered? Five Ways To Tell

Hint: Being Designated As A Patient-Centered Medical Home Is Not One

We hear a lot about patient-centered care these days. In particular, a growing number of physicians across the country are now referring to their practices as a “Patient-Centered Medical Home.”

But how can you tell if your physician’s practice really is patient-centered, no matter what he or she may call themself? More importantly, why should you care? What is patient-centered care, you ask?

It’s quality care delivered in a manner where you feel that your provider:

  • Knows who you are personally as well as clinically.
  • Understands, respects and honors (where practicable) your previous health experiences, beliefs and preferences.
  • Facilitates and supports your health choices and behavior barring a serious conflict of beliefs or principles.

Since each of us possess a different set of experiences, beliefs and preferences, patient -entered care by definition is tailored to individual patients.

For example, some patients like their doctor to take charge and make the important decisions. Other patients may want to be the one in charge, while others still may prefer a more collaborative style. Ideally a patient-centered physician knows where the patient is coming from and does his or her best to accommodate the patient. Why?  Because patient-centered care, where the patients feels understood, listened to and respected, results in increased patient compliance, improved health status and better outcomes.

Five Ways to Tell If Your Physician Is Patient-Centered

  1. Your doctor asks you up front “what brings you in to see me today” and then let’s you answer the question without interruption. In other words your doctor is a good listener.
  2. Your doctor asks you for your thoughts regarding the cause of a health concern, as well as any thoughts you may have for how to deal with a particular concern?
  3. You feel like you can talk to your doctor about your interest in seeing a chiropractor or acupuncturist without fear of ridicule.
  4. Your doctor does not “default” to prescribing a medication knowing full well you don’t like taking medication.
  5. Your doctor asks you about other aspects of your life (family, work, social) that may serve as context for  making the best treatment recommendations.

It may be helpful to understand what patient-centered care is not, at least for some people. Remember it can be different for each patient.

Patient-centered is not necessarily about being designated as a Medical Home, having electronic medical records, offering email visits, group visits, or collaborative care, although it may be for some patients. Nor is all about collaborative care planning, joint decision making or team care. Again, different strokes for different folks.

Why should you pay attention to which physicians are patient-centered and who are not?

There are many reasons, but first and foremost, you are more likely to get  appropriate (e.g., better) care, tailored to your beliefs and preferences. Odds are you will have a much more satisfactory health experience and will be more likely to follow your doctor’s recommendations. After all you helped come up with them.


Be very suspicious when you come across providers or hospitals calling themselves “patient-centered.” If you want to have some fun, ask them what they mean by patient-centered. If they say it’s because “we put the patient first,” you know they haven’t a clue and are just using it as a marketing ploy. Do yourself a favor and run for your life!

*This blog post was originally published at Mind The Gap*

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