In the years since the Institute of Medicine (IOM) pronounced patient-centered care one of six core aims of a high-value system, its definition has broadened and become more prescriptive. The 2001 IOM report spoke loftily of “providing care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.”1 In contrast, a February 2013 IOM workshop called for “strategies and policies for activities to be undertaken at multiple levels to advance patients, in partnership with providers, as leaders and drivers of care delivery improvement through the protected use of clinical data, informed, shared decisions and value improvement.”2
The difference in tone reflects a substantive shift in the role of patient-centeredness in health system reform. What began as an adjuration to physicians about values has progressed to a prescriptive guide incorporating activities and objectives that reverberate well beyond the individual clinical encounter. As the 2013 IOM meeting put it: “Prepared, engaged patients are a fundamental precursor to high-quality care, lower costs and better health.”
In this essay, I explore the sometimes conflicting roles that have become part of the real-world definition of patient-centered care, describe evidence of the concept’s economic and clinical impact, and examine the opportunities and barriers involved in making patient-centeredness an integral part of U.S. health care.
Click here to read the balance of Michael Millenson’s piece, which is part of the Expert Voices series on the National Institute of Health Care Management (NIHCM) Foundation’s site.