Patient centered care: A dummies guide to effective marketing

Patient centered health care is a new catch phrase in the quality and safety world. Dental schools are required to teach this concept to students; the Australian Dental Council has this in its professional attributes and competencies; and the Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Healthcare claims this leads to safer, higher quality healthcare.

When I first heard the suggestion that our practicing life was changing so we are now to practice “patient centered care” I wondered ‘what on earth did they think we were doing in the past’?

Weren’t private dental practitioners always ‘patient centered’?

In a market driven world where the ultimate consumer ‘review’ is to stay or leave a dental practice our ability to stay in business is wholly related to our success in giving ‘patient –centered care’.
When viewed in light of a reduced consumer market for dentists (due to economic conditions and oversupply of dentists) the precepts of ‘patient-centered care’ give a great outline for effective marketing and customer retention.

So what precisely is “patient centered care”?

Patient centered health care is healthcare that is ‘respectful of and responsive to, the preferences, needs and values of patients*’.

People don’t want to be told what you know; they want you to ask questions to find out whether what you know, and can do, is of added value to their own needs and goals.

Successful sales and marketing revolves around this technique for producing happy consumers. No-one wants to buy off a sales person who tells them what he thinks they need. Being mindful of the other peoples needs and values allows healthcare worker to use motivational interviewing techniques to effectively elicit changes in behaviour or elicit purchasing decisions!

[The bigger picture is: Does patient centered care reduce the ethical and moral obligations of healthcare providers where healthcare is totally market driven?]

*Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (2011), Patient-centred care: Improving quality and safety through partnerships with patients and consumers, ACSQHC, Sydney.