How Patient-Centered Care and Patient Advocacy Go Hand-in-Hand

In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, the concepts of patient-centered care and patient leadership have become increasingly vital in shaping the quality and effectiveness of how medical care is given and received.1-3

These 2 concepts are closely linked. They work hand-in-hand with one another. Research shows that when done effectively, patient-centered care and patient leadership can foster a collaborative and empowering environment that puts the patient at the center of their healthcare journey.1-3

What is patient- and family-centered care?

Patient- and family-centered care is a healthcare approach that puts the patient’s needs and values first. This includes a patient’s family. Instead of a one-size-fits-all model, healthcare providers – doctors, nurses, aides, therapists, etc. – tailor their care to meet the unique needs of each patient.4

Patient-centered care emphasizes shared decision-making and open communication between healthcare providers, patients, and patient families. It aims to create an environment that is centered around support and respect so patients and families feel actively involved in their care.4,5

What is patient advocacy?

Patient advocacy, sometimes called patient leadership, is a concept that goes beyond the traditional roles of patients. It involves patients actively participating in treatment decisions, influencing healthcare policies, and contributing to the improvement of healthcare systems on a broader scale.

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Patient leaders draw from their personal experiences to advocate for change. They strive to have the patient’s perspective considered at all levels of healthcare decision-making. This form of leadership can empower and inspire other patients to take a more active role in their own health journey.

There are many paths Patient Leaders can focus their efforts and attention toward. Here are some paths that the Social Health Network has spearheaded as central to this mission of patient-centered care:

How the 2 concepts go hand in hand

At the core of patient-centered care is the belief that patients should be partners in their healthcare journey. This philosophy is also central to patient leadership. Patient leadership is about collaborating within the healthcare landscape in ways that create change. In doing so, it empowers others to speak up for their needs.4,5

When patients and families are empowered to become leaders in their care, it not only benefits them on a personal level but also contributes to a more patient-centric healthcare system.1-5

Examples in the healthcare space

Here are some examples of patient-centered care and patient leadership in action:

Shared decision-making

In patient-centered care, shared decision-making is a cornerstone. Patient leaders actively participate in discussions about treatment options and therapies to try. By working together with your healthcare team, you make sure your treatment plan aligns with your goals and values.5

Advocating for change

Patient leaders often advocate for systemic changes in healthcare policies and practices. For example, say a patient has faced challenges in getting affordable and accessible care. They may use their experiences to advocate for improved healthcare accessibility and affordability at a broader level.

Teaching advocacy to your child

Just as adults advocate for their healthcare needs, teaching children the importance of expressing what they need and want fosters a sense of empowerment and resilience. As a child's caregiver, parents can model patient leadership by involving their child in decisions related to their health. This helps lay the foundation for advocating for themselves down the road. Here are some ways you can do this with your child:

  • Involve them in discussions with healthcare providers about medicine preferences or treatment options
  • Ask them questions and really listen to their preferences and input
  • Encourage them to speak up about symptoms, concerns, and feelings during medical appointments
  • Discuss choices related to everyday life like nutrition, physical activity, school schedule, etc.

By teaching advocacy to children in a patient-centered way, parents contribute to raising a generation that is not only aware of their healthcare needs but is also equipped with the skills to lead and advocate for their well-being.

Finding a provider who respects your goals and values

Patient leadership skills are invaluable when it comes to finding a doctor who prioritizes your opinions and needs. This involves:3,4

  • Researching potential doctors
  • Reading reviews
  • Considering their communication style and willingness to engage in shared decision-making
  • Getting a second opinion
  • Listening to your gut – if a doctor doesn’t feel right to you, move on

Community engagement

Patient leaders often extend their influence to engage with their community. That could mean:

  • Organizing in-person or virtual support groups
  • Sharing stories online to raise awareness about a certain health condition
  • Speaking at an event
  • Participating in initiatives that promote health education
  • Writing letters to politicians and legislators to voice your opinions on healthcare decisions made in this country

Take your patient advocacy to the next level

The synergy between patient- and family-centered care and patient leadership has the power to be transformative. If you are interested in taking action and empowering others in the healthcare space, the Social Health Network has an incredibly informative and rewarding program that might be just what you’re looking for.

Take the Patient Leader Certification Program today and start making critical change.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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