3 min read

Putting “patient centricity” in its place

Why the term is relevant, but not in isolation

“Patient centricity” is one of those phrases that’s active - it captures an audience’s attention and triggers a response. Often the response isn’t positive. People tend to find the phrase opaque at best, insincere at worst. 

I must admit that when I first talked to Atlas’ CEO about joining the team, I loved the idea of Atlas but didn’t warm to the term “patient centricity”. Perhaps because I'd spent a sizable chunk of the last three years working with an NHS Trust on service redesign where “patient centricity” was absent, but “patient involvement” was very present. Or perhaps because I have spent a lot of time studying social sciences as applied to healthcare, where we often read about “patient activation” and “patient empowerment”. These terms are outcome focused, expressing where we will get to as a result of our efforts. In contrast, “patient centricity” feels insular - it defines a stance rather than an end. 

I think this is where we start to identify the sticking point of “patient centricity”. In isolation, the term doesn't go far enough to be meaningful. It doesn’t express why an organisation is centred on patients.

If patient centricity is a means to an end, then what is the end that the healthcare industry is pursuing? A simple answer to that question is: to create more value for all of its stakeholders. That takes some work. It requires creating things that genuinely solve healthcare problems. And we can only understand and affect those problems if we understand increasingly diverse stakeholder groups associated with personalised healthcare.

It’s right and appropriate to talk about “patient centricity” when we are talking about an organisational strategy - a means to an end - but we need to talk about the end as well. We need to understand the priority outcomes across the disease areas that we work in and identify opportunities for healthcare improvement. Then we need to design and test interventions that move the outcomes forward. 

Through these actions, we will naturally form an opinion about what needs to be done to enhance healthcare. That opinion should be the end that we talk about. If we are clear about the useful impact we aim to create, then we can talk about what we are doing organisationally to get there. That’s when we talk about patient centricity.

Patient centricity has its place. It’s a high-level strategy. It’s a medium-level focus point. It’s a day-to-day value. But it is a means to an end. Let’s be clear about the ends that matter to us. And then patient centricity will be in its rightful place.

—Aaron Pond, Atlas managing director

Patient centricity is a means to an end - the end being better outcomes for all of us. What ‘end’ are you focusing on and why? Tell us in the comments below.

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