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Person-Directed Care: A New Way of Thinking


As a practice coach, I have been teaching and preaching the virtues of patient-centered care in primary care settings for over a decade. Patient-centered care is a method intended to improve health outcomes, patient, provider and staff satisfaction, and the bottom line. Sounds pretty good, right? Yet it seems the further we go in search of improving health care outcomes, the results over recent years have shown there are no panaceas. It’s time for a change in approach when it comes to engaging patients in their care.

Words Matter!

Patient-centered care is something we in health care provide — often based on our limited resources. Let’s take the word “patient” out of the equation. Patients are traditionally in a dependent position, relying on someone else to provide care to them. Instead, let’s use the word “person.” A person is an individual with their own thoughts, needs and desires.

Next, let’s replace the word “centered” with “directed.” Person-directed care restores power to the person we’re caring for, giving them the authority and agency to act on their own behalf whenever possible.

Finally, we must learn to think in terms of person-directed outcomes, or PDOs. PDOs are goals that are important to the individual — as identified by the individual. I can tell you that, as a person, I don’t think, “What is my hemoglobin A1C going to be if I eat this cookie?” I do think, “I want to be fit and live a healthy, active life.” That’s why I watch my carb intake, exercise and take my meds on time. That’s my person-directed outcome.

It’s All About Perspective

This is a whole new way of thinking about personal engagement, and it’s not how medical professionals are trained to think. It can feel awkward, and it looks very different on a care plan as a goal statement.

In health care, we spend a lot of time and money testing new and innovative ways to engage patients. We get excited about using technology for advanced patient monitoring, learning motivational interviewing techniques and mastering self-management goal setting — which all are awesome and fabulous and wonderful tools in our toolkit. We are continually looking through the lens of a care provider, thinking about what we can do to or for the patient.

I’m suggesting a new perspective. Go back and read this blog again, and replace the word “patient,” which is mentioned 12 times, with the word “person.” Think about reframing your clinical interactions as a provider of care to include asking your person what outcomes are important to them.

Learn More

Learn more about how you and your colleagues can change your thinking to include person-directed outcomes:

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