Flipping Health Care: From ‘What’s The Matter’ To ‘What Matters To You?’

Patient-centered care is all the rage, but what does that actually mean in the medical trenches?

It means “flipping” the entire notion of health care around, says Maureen Bisognano, President and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), speaking today at the nonprofit group’s annual national forum in Orlando, Fl.

Instead of traditional medical care, which focuses on a patient’s disease or illness by asking the question “What’s the matter?” Bisognano says providers should focus on the person and his or hers individual needs and lead with the much more intimate: “What Matters To You?”

An example: A standard mode of assessing whether a patient’s diabetes is under control is through traditional numeric measures, like blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar. But isn’t it more meaningful, Bisognano suggests, to measure in more human terms, like how many leg amputations and heart attacks were avoided by controlling diabetes, or how many fewer trips to the ER were needed? And of course, what was the dollar savings?

It’s worth listening to Bisognano’s far-reaching talk here, which touches on what health means to a 96-year-old (living pain-free and being productive) and highlights “centering pregnancy” — group prenatal and maternity care visits in which women and teams of providers support each other.

Bisognano also features a young Millennial named Trevor, a self-described “diabetes evangelist” who explains why he’s glad he has Type 1 diabetes (it’s so much easier to be healthy when you’re forced to focus on the nutritional content of food); and what true health means to him (answer: it’s all about staying high-energy in the erratic world of college student life).

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