WCPT Secretary General Brenda Myers (right) speaks as a member of the panel during the IAPO Congress. Simon Crompton, WCPT's communications advisor, (left) was chairing the session. In the centre is Alison Austin, Head of the personal health budgets team at the Department of Health in the UK.
WCPT Secretary General Brenda Myers (right) speaks as a member of the panel during the IAPO Congress. Simon Crompton, WCPT's communications advisor, (left) was chairing the session. In the centre is Alison Austin, Head of the personal health budgets team at the Department of Health in the UK.

Learning to see our services through patients' and clients' eyes

What does being “patient-centred” really mean? With WCPT contributing to a recent Global Patients Congress in London, Simon Crompton gets the views of WCPT’s Brenda Myers and Durhane Wong-Rieger, Chair of the International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations. 

The International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations held its fifth global congress in London in March, and WCPT’s Secretary General Brenda Myers was among those providing a view on how patient-centred healthcare can be turned from aspiration into action. Representing the World Health Professions Alliance, she spoke as part of a panel including representatives of government, patients, the World Health Organization and the pharmaceutical industry.

The event, she says, vividly demonstrated the need for health professionals to be involved with patient representatives and organisations and to reflect on the implications for their work and priorities.

“As health professionals, we often believe we are practising in a patient-centred way, but events like this involving patient representatives are a reminder of their perspective. Such events can also help patient representatives get new insights into professional issues.”

Brenda Myers said that WCPT, like other organisations representing health professionals, must consider carefully what it means to take on board the patient perspective. “We have to be aware of the dangers of tokenism – obtaining the views of patients simply because it’s something you should be seen to do. We all need to consider how we engage patients and their organisations in our work, and how we really take account of their views and experience in a meaningful way.”

At the congress, the International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations (IAPO) launched a new review investigating what constitutes quality patient-centred healthcare, and how to measure it. The Patient Centred Indicators Review brings together current and proposed indicators of patient-centred healthcare and analyses them in the light of IAPO’s principles: respecting patient as individuals; empowering patients as partners in choices about treatment and care; empowering patient organisations to help patients and families exercise their rights; involving patients in all levels of healthcare, including policy; providing access to quality services, support and accurate, relevant and comprehensive information.

“The review is important because it can lead to consensus on measures, with the goal of promoting, benchmarking, and evaluating quality patient-centred health services and programmes,” says Durhane Wong-Rieger, Chair of the International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations.

She was also a speaker at the congress, and says that the main message that came out of the event, which attracted around 200 people, was that patient-centred care is no longer a marginal issue.  

“It is the driving principle for healthcare reform globally and also a platform for quality healthcare policy, programmes and delivery. This year's congress was significant in that little discussion was needed on the value of patient-centredness – mostly the topic was ‘how to do it and to do it meaningfully.’”

She drew attention to the key plenary session, involving Brenda Myers, which included examples of putting patients at the centre.  “Models, tools, and methods for implementing patient-centred healthcare were presented from patients and patient organisations.  Patient-centred care in resource-poor settings and in rural communities spoke to the breadth of its relevance and applicability.”

Patient-centred care is based on the premise that patients are the experts in their own conditions and their own lives.  People achieve better health outcomes and have better quality of life when they are empowered to make informed choices that meet their personal needs and fit their lifestyle. 

But patient-centred care is not simply a set of activities, said Durhane Wong-Rieger, who is also President of the Institute for Optimizing Health Outcomes in Toronto, Canada. “It is a culture that values the patient as an informed partner in healthcare. That involves a fundamental shift from the traditional healthcare-professional-as-expert model.  We need to engage all levels of healthcare system, including patients, healthcare professionals, payers, and policy makers, to achieve structural and practice changes.”

You can find WCPT’s policy statement on patients’/clients’ rights in physical therapy at www.wcpt.org/policy/ps-patients-rights

For more information about IAPO go to www.patientsorganizations.org/

The IAPO Patient Centred Indicators Review is available at: www.patientsorganizations.org/showarticle.pl?id=1453