Welcoming Patients as Equal Partners

July 7, 2014
Adam Hochron

In tough economic times with the cost of healthcare increasing, a new study finds ways to make paying for care easier to understand and to bring costs down for all involved.

In a time when sharing and researching information is just a smartphone away, it is important for healthcare professionals and the patients they interact with to work closely together to ensure the best treatment possible, according to a report from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation.

According to the report, the relationship between doctors and patients should make it so that the patients and families are “welcomed as equal partners.” That partnership, the report added, should go beyond doctors and reach all levels of the medical profession to help provide high-quality care.

George Thibault, MD, president of the Macy Foundation said in a statement that this partnership requires people on both sides to reconsider what they traditionally think of the roles in the care process.

“We must move beyond what we typically think of as ‘patient engagement’ efforts—things like inviting patients to respond to surveys or to participate on advisory panels—and integrate patients as partners throughout the health professions education and delivery system,” he said. “Although this will require a fundamental shift in traditional health professions education and clinical practice and may even cause some initial discomfort, it is a shift that is urgently needed.”

The report was put together by 40 representatives from healthcare organizations, health professions schools and consumers in the field. In concluding their report, the group wrote that continuing down the same path that has been used in healthcare for many years “will lead to continued disintegration of health professions education and clinical practice.”

In looking to make such drastic changes the group has suggestions on 4 steps that can be taken to implement the new approach.

1. Content and conduct

Make changes in the content and conduct of health professions education necessary to graduate practitioners who partner with patients, families and leaders in communities. The writers of the report said this should include not only coursework but also clinical work for inpatient and outpatient caregivers and as part of a peer-to-peer learning system. Patients, the report adds, should have their experiences used to make the education of professionals better.

This can be done by developing a framework within educational curricula to develop effective partnerships, developing a framework for keeping patients involved in the process and the development of programs for teaching students how to build partnerships with not only their patients and the families of patients but also the greater communities they serve among other steps.

2. Facilitate durable partnerships

Make changes in health professions education organizations and healthcare organizations necessary to facilitate durable partnerships, both new and existing, with patients, families and leaders in communities.

To accomplish this step, the report said leaders in healthcare and healthcare education will have to make a new vision of ways to make patients part of the process as partners rather than as nothing more than people receiving treatment. Accomplishing this goal, the report states, could include steps like setting incentives for doctors to set standards of partnerships with their patients and ensuring resources are in place to get the patients and community in place to be part of the process.

3. Overcoming barriers

Build the capacity for partnerships among patients, families and communities and health professions education and healthcare organizations.

While admitting there are “barriers,” that prevent partnerships from being formed, the report said those need to and can be overcome in the interests of better care.

“If we wish to move from a healthcare system based on ‘we are here to make you feel better’ to a model of ‘we are partners, working together to create optimal health for you and your community,’ we need new skills and supporting structures,” the report stated.

4. Reforms

Make regulatory and payment reforms that require, support and sustain partnerships among patients, families and communities and health professions education and healthcare organizations.

Expediting the process

In tough economic times with the cost of healthcare increasing, the study finds ways to make paying for the care patients get easier to understand and also work to bring costs down for all involved.

The writers suggested having the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation working to expedite the partnership process, “because CMS action so greatly influences payment and practice in the private sector, this commitment would have a force-multiplier effect that would help drive more rapid and widespread adoption of such partnership.”