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What do patients perceive as most important?

July 13, 2018
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For a practicing provider, making management decisions is inherently an individual activity, influenced by factors unique to each patient. Research designed to inform decision-making often describes analysis of data obtained from groups. Thus, applying knowledge from research conclusions to individual cases can sometimes be challenging because groups don’t necessarily represent individuals. However, though challenging at times, such knowledge can be used to inform care.

Consider racial, ethnic, and religious groups. Perceptions, beliefs, and values surrounding issues of health can differ widely between groups, resulting in diverse perceptions of, and outcomes from, healthcare experiences.(1) Understanding a broad array of perceptions, beliefs, and values patients hold can help inform how to tailor a positive healthcare experience for more individuals.

A recent article published in the journal Medical Care, describes perceptions of Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and over. (2) Researchers collected and analyzed how beneficiaries from specific racial and ethnic groups rated the quality of a healthcare encounter. Factors deemed most important differed between groups.

Doctor communication was valued most highly for Whites, African Americans, and English speaking Hispanics. Whereas accessing needed care was most important for Spanish speaking Hispanics and Asian/Pacific Islanders. African Americans also rated quick access to care and care coordination highly.

At least one important theme emerges from this research. Patients value many components of a healthcare experience, though in general, they rank the value of several components differently. Components of a healthcare visit that clearly influence patient perceptions include:
• Doctor communication
• Obtaining care quickly
• Receiving needed care
• Customer service
• Care coordination

We can use results from this study to examine and strengthen how we manage each visit experience. We can potentially re-evaluate or adapt our methods relative to the list above to better serve patients. These findings also remind us that what is most important for patients may not be most important to us as providers.

Reference List
1. Rose PR. Cultural competency for the health professional. Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2013.
2. Collins RL, Haas A, Haviland AM et al. What Matters Most to Whom: Racial, Ethnic, and Language Differences in the Health Care Experiences Most Important to Patients. Med.Care. 2017.

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