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Create patient-centered experiences

March 24, 2015
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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I recently attended a screening of the documentary “Most Likely to Succeed” at the Cleveland International Film Festival. The point of the movie was to demonstrate that the educational system in the United States hasn’t changed in more than a century, but it needs to change now more than ever. We live in a world where information is easy to look up online, so memorizing facts—especially for a standardized test—isn’t the highly valued competency it once was. Kids need practical skills that will help them manage projects, apply information and work together in the world.

The movie effectively challenges the status quo of our longstanding educational system.

It had me thinking about the status quo in addiction treatment and how the industry is going to see some disruptive shifts in the next decade. For example, there's been a renewed effort to question the validity of the 12-Step approach of late. Are you prepared to offer alternatives if the upcoming generation decides the 12-Steps aren't for them?

Just like the educators who advocate for a student-centered approach to learning, more families are going to expect a patient-centered experience in treatment facilities. But what does that mean exactly?

In primary care, being patient-centered typically means the provider offers a certain amount of convenience, such as evening or weekend hours, online appointment scheduling or valet parking. A hospital might offer made-to-order meals or accommodations for patients’ families.

Unique structure

The structure of care delivery in behavioral health is quite different, of course. Therefore, the way you create a patient-centered experience can’t be modeled after your primary care or hospital counterparts.

If you ask the patient, he might say patient-centered care means you let him break the rules. Maybe he wants to go out and grab a cigarette even though your facility is a fully non-smoking campus. If you ask the family what they want, they might say they want their loved one “fixed” and returned home as soon as possible. You need to be a bit more visionary perhaps.

Here are a few of my ideas for ingredients that lead toward the patient-centered experience.

  • Adopt a policy for ethical marketing to prospective patients as well as honesty in your referral practices.
  • Keep your services within reach financially for the many who need help in your community.
  • Hire the right staff even if it means holding off on an expansion until the new positions can be filled with great people.
  • Be open to new treatment modalities that are backed by evidence.
  • Keep your facility in good working order, freshening up the design often.
  • Go out of your way to minimize the burden of paperwork for patients.

You probably have a dozen more ideas. We’d like to hear them. Send me an email, and let’s continue the discussion.

BTW: You can watch the movie trailer here.


Julie Miller

Editor in Chief

Julie Miller


Julie Miller has more than 14 years of experience observing, analyzing and reporting on various...

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