A Woman’s Perspective: Understanding Patient-Centered Care
There has been a gradual shift to “patient-centered” care in medical specialties over the years. It’s not a new concept. What is new is the growing number of people wanting to understand the concept.
In a nutshell, patient-centered care is defined as care that is needed and wanted — balanced at the provider level by experience and openness, and at the patient level by information-gathering, preferences, and openness. The key to successful patient-centered care, for both care provider and patient, is the willingness to listen and be heard by the other.
In my specialty of obstetrics and gynecology, patient-centered care is often called “woman-centered” care or “family-centered” maternity care. The term “patient-centered” childbirth is used when balancing maternal-child wellbeing and safety with the needs and wants of the mom. Most first-time moms don’t know what they need or want on their maternity journey. Further many first-time moms don’t know what questions to ask. Patient-centered care offers first-time moms the opportunity for educating, exploring, expressing preferences, and planning. It also focuses on provider and patient listening and seeing that this thing called birth is a tricky, natural human process that sometimes doesn’t go according to plan. For example, a patient’s “want” to have natural childbirth sometimes change in the delivery room.
A skilled patient-centered OB/GYN, and the system he or she practices within, accept that the preferences of a woman and her family, as well as her values, choices, and culture, are closely connected to promoting optimal health outcomes. In patient-centered OB/GYN care, the patient and provider are considered equal team players in the childbirth experience with shared knowledge and share openness ensuring safety and support. For example, patient-centered care embraces healthy women wanting to try vaginal births after cesareans. In addition, patient-centered care encourages waiting for spontaneous labor to occur rather than a non-medically indicated induction. Patient-centered care also welcomes doulas, midwives, and others to a maternity healthcare team.
More and more OB/GYN care providers and hospitals are embracing patient-centered care. How can you tell if your chosen care provider or hospital provides patient-centered maternity care? Ask yourself the following questions. Hopefully, your answers are “Yes.”
Does your provider:
• Suggest questions to ask that will contribute to the overall success of your pregnancy and birth?
• Answer all your questions?
• Actively seek, listen to, and honor your opinion?
Does your chosen place of birth:
• Encourage you to gather information?
• Encourage shared decision making?
• Embrace you and your care team as partners in your care?
In summary, patient-centered care in medicine is always about achieving a well-defined and welcomed balance between health-care provider and patient. It’s about mutual listening, openness, informing and building levels of confidence and trust. It’s also about an awareness of preferences, cultural traditions, values, families and lifestyles when treating patients