The benefit of increasing emphasis on patient-centredness is obvious: improvement in health outcomes we see when patients are true partners in decisions made in their care. It is impossible for doctors to know everything their patients value, think and feel. Taking a patient-centred approach ensures there is no guessing what is right for the patient. It creates space for meaningful conversations about difficult choices. It brings humanism to the person sitting in front of us who we want to help with our experience and knowledge. When as physicians we put aside things we want for our patients, and instead act on what they want, even when we don’t completely agree, we build a stronger bond and sense of trust. This creates an enduring relationship that is good for both of us.
There is only one downside to an emphasis on patient-centred care. This is that it is touted so often that it’s losing its meaning. Many institutions say they focus on patients, but far fewer can actually demonstrate how. Does it take more time? Overall, no. In the long term patients become more independent and care for themselves better when partners, and this will save us time. Does it fly in the face of evidence? On the contrary. There is increasing proof that patient partnerships produce far better outcomes and adherence to treatment plans. Does it challenge the old paradigm of paternalistic care? Absolutely. But with training about care co-design, and data that shows improvement it is impossible to argue that this is isn’t the right thing to do.
It is possible for the CMA to move toward a patient-centred approach and still represent the thoughts and feelings of its physician members. This will take bold leadership. I believe in this work and will fight to see that it happens in a way that is good for all of us.