Healthcare Business News

Benjamin stresses patient-centered themes

By Jennifer Lubell
Posted: March 30, 2010 - 1:00 pm ET

"Patients are ultimate decision makers” in their care, U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin told a working group meeting of the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative in Washington.

The surgeon general specifically addressed the concept of the patient-centered medical home, a mode of primary care that facilitates partnerships between patients, their providers and the patient's family, when appropriate.

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“Patient-centered care is what I've been about all my life,” said Benjamin, a family physician who practiced medicine for 23 years before becoming the surgeon general in Washington, to be a “new doctor to 300 million patients.”

In her own not-for-profit medical clinic in Alabama, Benjamin said her staff tries “to treat the whole family, not just the patient. We didn't call ourselves a medical home, we just practiced those principles. Our goal was and still is meet the needs of patient and not the needs of the doctor or the staff,” she said.

Benjamin said she never allowed the staff to fault the patient. If a patient was late or didn't follow instructions, it meant the staff person wasn't thorough enough in their instructions.

In those instances, “it's not the patient's fault, it's our fault,” she emphasized.

At the same time, doctors should not be making final decisions on care. That's the patient's responsibility, she said.

Patient-centered care has been getting a lot of support from the Obama administration, Benjamin continued. “I hope it's the future of healthcare.”

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