Traditional Patient Care vs. Patient Centered Care: The Importance of Speaking to the Patient at the Time of Need

Feb 11, 2015
4 min read

Patient centered care involves speaking to the patient at the time of need. This concept differs from traditional patient care and is more effective.

As the digital and physical world in health care collide, we need to rethink the way we interact with patients.

Typically a patient visits an office, or calls in for an appointment, and is booked. The patient shows up at the appointed time, and the visit begins. In 20-30 minutes, a healthcare professional will triage, diagnose, treat, prescribe and sell to the patient. That’s the industry standard practice. There is a lot of information that the patient is exposed to in a very short amount of time, but somehow, this type of patient care and experience has worked.

My colleagues and I contemplated this issue at length. Drawing inspiration from Facebook and Google, we came up with the patient moment of truth model. The core idea is simple:

A patient’s motivation to consume information is at the highest, when they have recognized they are experiencing a problem and are seeking care.

If we recognize where a patient lies on the patient spectrum (Fig 1.), we know when best to communicate to a patient. Study after study has shown that effective selling requires educated consumers, and the more time we talk meaningfully about something to a consumer, the more likely they are to understand it. Patients are humans, and any patient engagement tool must consider how humans deal with new information, process data, and learn about conditions.


Figure 1.

How can we better serve our patients’ needs? The answer lies in what we call the "Patient Moment of Truth." The moment the patient calls to make an appointment — because of a specific problem or simply a wellness check-up — is a critical time in the patient life cycle, a point when you can begin to form a personal relationship with the patient at a time when they are vulnerable and need your help. Now — not when someone arrives at your office — is the time to learn more about the patient and how you can solve their problems.

Psychologists know that human beings need information to be presented three to five times before we understand it. But many healthcare professionals fail to give patients ample opportunity to receive and digest important information.


The Traditional Approach:

42-year-old Mary is experiencing near vision blur. She finds an eye doctor and makes an appointment. During her exam, the doctor determines that she is presbyopic. Mary proceeds to the optical, confused at best, only to have the optician inform her that progressive lenses will be $600. Her anxiety about the price and the barrage of information leads her to walk out of the office, perhaps consult friends, family or the Internet — but possibly never to return to the practice.

A New Approach

42-year-old Mary has blurry near vision, finds a doctor and books an appointment. Using technology, the office staff triages her situation, and delivers personalized messages to her several times before her visit. She begins to understand potential causes of blurred vision and learns about solutions like progressive lenses. The staff also learns that she drives a lot at night and plays in a recreational volleyball league, so we can recommend A/R treatment and shatter-resistant materials. In this new model, Mary has an experience that is designed specifically to her needs, which results in better outcomes for her and for the doctor.


Healthcare professionals can use technology to deliver customized and targeted education to the patient before they even walk in the door. The patient is primed with potential solutions that will improve health and increase quality of life. As long as we put our patients first, speak to them when they are in need and educate them on products that will solve their problems, healthcare professionals can remain relevant and create loyal customers for life . . . and that is patient centered care.