Australia is enhancing its delivery of healthcare by moving to a more patient-centred approach. Person-centred care, which respects and responds to the preferences, needs, and values of an individual, is recognised as a foundation to high-quality healthcare and is shown to improve patient safety and outcomes as well as patient and staff satisfaction.
According to an Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care report on promoting and supporting person-centred care within healthcare organisations, embedding a person-centred approach should involve all healthcare staff within an environment committed to continual learning.
Person-centred care requires staff to seek out and understand what is important to the patient and those supporting their care. It also means working together to share decisions and plan care – a key factor in the National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards. The commission’s Partnering with Consumers Standard acknowledges the importance of involving patients in their own care and communicating with them clearly.
Patients should be centre of focus
In patient-centred care models, the needs and desired health outcomes of the individual are the driving force behind all care decisions. Clinicians should inform, advise, and support, but it is up to the patient to decide what steps they will take to manage their health.
The Chief Nurse of Wolters Kluwer Health Learning, Research and Practice, Anne Dabrow Woods, DNP, RN, CRNP, ANP-BC, AGACNP-BC, FAAN, believes the culture of caring is changing to improve the patient experience. “Patients need certain things to feel good about their healthcare experience – they need to feel respected at all times, they need to feel like they are the focus,” she says, adding that nurses need to demonstrate they are knowledgeable, confident, and competent, and bring a spirit of empathy and kindness.
Nursing staff experience matters, too
Research has shown that patient experiences are better when healthcare staff feel they have a good working environment, aren’t emotionally or physically exhausted, and have support from their team.
As the healthcare commission points out: “To succeed, a patient-centred approach should also address the staff experience, because the staff’s ability and inclination to care effectively for patients is compromised if they do not feel cared for themselves.”
Following one North South Wales (NSW) program discussed in a healthcare commission paper, nurses reported that a personalised care approach left them feeling more confident caring for patients, that they have received fewer complaints from patients’ families, and that it led to improved work satisfaction.
The Australian College of Nursing believes that the principle of person-centred care is a central tenet underpinning the delivery of nursing care. It lists professional competence, well-developed interpersonal skills, self-awareness, commitment to patient care, and strong professional values among the traits that enable a nurse to deliver person-centred care.
Patient-centred care is recognised as being particularly important among vulnerable and disadvantaged populations, such as the elderly, people with mental illnesses or disabilities, those from rural and remote areas, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. With the goal of putting the patient at the centre, a NSW initiative to support patient safety, known as REACH, helps educate Aboriginal patients, their families, and carers on how to raise their concerns with health professionals about changes in a patient’s condition.
Ways to deliver responsive care
Healthcare staff need to be open to patient concerns and questions. Tools such as the What Matters To You? checklist encourage more meaningful conversations between patients, carers, families, and staff.
SA Health share a number of person-centred strategies for staff to follow in providing care and support to their patients. These include:
- Introduce yourself and explain your role
- Show an awareness of the patient’s views, beliefs, culture, and language
- Explain the patient’s daily plan of care and provide self-management information
- Ensure that the patient knows and understands their rights
- Acknowledge concerns of patients, family, and carers.
How people-centred policy is working in practice
Patient-centred care is increasingly embedded in every part of the healthcare system. The updated Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights focuses more on person-centred care, including a right to partnership, information, respect, and the option to provide feedback without any negative repercussions.
The good news is that data from a 2021-22 survey found a large majority of patients believe healthcare providers are spending time with them, listening to them, and showing respect.
In an assessment of health service organisations’ adherence to NSQHS Standards between January 2019 and May 2023, 66 per cent of the assessments met the standard for Partnering with Consumers. The Communicating for Safety Standard was met in 69 per cent of assessments.
Patient-centred care is being embraced in a range of healthcare settings, from hospitals and GP offices to aged care and palliative care. The progress being made to embed these practices will go a long way in improving staff confidence and health outcomes.
Learn more about the importance of patient-centred care.