Cath Phibben BSc (Hons), PGCert (Health Informatics), CHIA
Application Manager, Queensland Health
In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, patient centricity has emerged as a pivotal concept driving innovation and transformation in health informatics and software development. The traditional model of healthcare often revolved around healthcare providers and institutions, with patients playing a passive role.
Patient centricity in digital health is a transformative approach that prioritises involving patients actively in their healthcare journey, considering their unique needs, preferences, and aspirations. This article delves into the changing perception of patient-centricity within the realm of digital health.
Historical context and milestones
The roots of patient-centric care can be traced back to the 1940s and the insights of the United States psychologist Carl Rogers, who introduced the concept of ‘patient-centred care’. He highlighted the evolution of the therapist-patient trust relationship, and the positive impact on patient outcomes when the patient guides the direction, being actively involved with decisions about their own treatment.
The chronic care model, conceived in the 1990s, aimed to address challenges related to collaboration between patients and healthcare providers. At the same time, the emerging availability of the internet in homes empowered patients to research their healthcare questions and fostered the formation of online communities. By the early 2000s the mindset had shifted to acknowledge the pivotal role of patients as active participants in their care teams, which could include multidisciplinary professionals and social care providers. Through these decades, there were also significant advancements in information and communication technologies which enabled hospitals, large healthcare organisations, and eventually all health providers to digitise their health processes and organisational functions.
The Institute of Medicine’s influential report To Err is Human (2000) marked the beginning of the new millennium by offering crucial recommendations to reduce medical errors. One notable suggestion was that patients, provided with access to all of their medication information, can actually act a significant safety check, empowering them with the ability to contribute to their own healthcare safety.
The shift to patient-centric systems
During the second decade of the millennium, substantial shifts toward establishing the foundational systems supporting patient-centric care became evident. Patient portals emerged, facilitating meaningful conversations between patients and providers, especially within multidisciplinary care scenarios. Patients began actively participating in their healthcare decisions, armed with readily accessible information.
As we stand in the midst of the third decade of this millennium, the conversation around patient centricity has gained momentum, catalysed in part by the global pandemic that marked the start of the decade. The focus has shifted from merely making information available to patients from individual providers, to fostering a live exchange of data. This transition, made possible through standardised data exchange, propelled the healthcare industry towards patient-centric systems delivering patient-centric care.
The trajectory of patient centricity in digital health is set to evolve further. Anticipated advancements include seamless interoperability through refined data standards, empowering patients and healthcare providers to contribute to a dynamic and holistic view of patient health. By encouraging individuals to align themselves with these advances, a system emerges that is no longer patient-centric in principle, but also in practice. Moreover, artificial intelligence and machine learning will play an instrumental role in leveraging the wealth of health data to provide personalised insights, treatment plans, and interventions. Telehealth and remote monitoring are anticipated to become even more sophisticated, ensuring broader access to healthcare services, especially in underserved regions.
In this evolving digital health landscape, the ultimate goal remains consistent: to elevate patient centricity to new heights, fostering a healthcare ecosystem where every individual is an active participant in their health journey, driving better outcomes and improved quality of life. The journey towards a patient-centric future continues, promising further decades of unparalleled advancements and transformative changes.
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