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The hidden dangers of prioritizing patient happiness


The concept of patient-centered care has become pervasive in the health care industry over the last decade. However, as a health care provider, I often wonder if this approach is truly effective in improving patient outcomes and satisfaction. With the continuous emphasis on patient-centered care, I can’t help but question if it is actually a fallacy disguised as a solution.

In the past, patients had a strong relationship with their physicians, who took the time to understand their concerns and provide personalized care. However, with the increasing demands for increased patient volume and electronic medical record documentation, this relationship has significantly deteriorated. Patients are now referred to multiple specialists, often with little coordination and education on how all the pieces of their health puzzle fit together. This fragmented care has resulted in unnecessary tests, duplicated appointments, and ultimately, a decrease in overall health outcomes.

Patient-centered care places the responsibility of self-management on the patient, expecting them to play an “active” role in their care. However, in cases such as acute illnesses like sepsis or appendicitis, how feasible is this expectation? Should patients resort to Google to research their conditions and discuss treatment options with their care team?

Furthermore, patient-centered care is often viewed as a form of value-based care, with governmental agencies and insurance companies using it as a proxy for quality. While satisfaction is undoubtedly important, it should not be the sole determiner of quality care. As health care providers, we are here to heal, not to cater to the whims and desires of our patients like a hotel or restaurant. The focus should be on treating the condition, not just making the patient and their family “satisfied.”

We must also acknowledge the negative consequences of solely adhering to patient satisfaction. The current opioid crisis is a glaring example of this. Patient satisfaction surveys have led to increased opioid prescribing to alleviate pain, despite the known risks of addiction and harm. This is just one of many examples where patient-centered care has led to detrimental outcomes.

In reality, patient-centered care may not be the solution we thought it was. It often leads to fragmented care, devaluation of medical expertise, and a disregard for evidence-based treatment. It is time for us to reconsider this approach and shift the focus back to providing high-quality, evidence-based care rather than simply satisfying patients’ desires.

In conclusion, the fallacy of patient-centered care is apparent. As health care providers, our priority should always be on treating the patient’s condition with the best possible care. We must not let patient satisfaction surveys dictate our treatment decisions. Instead, we should use our medical expertise to provide effective and efficient care to our patients. Let us abandon the fallacy of patient-centered care and focus on our true goal – healing.

Myles Gart is an anesthesiologist.


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