Patient- and family-centered care is an approach to the planning, delivery, and evaluation of health care that is grounded in mutually beneficial partnerships among patients, their families, and health care professionals. It redefines the relationships in health care by placing an emphasis on collaborating with patients of all ages, and their families, at all levels of care, in all health care settings, and in organizational change and improvement. This collaboration ensures that health care is responsive to an individual’s priorities, preferences, and values. In patient- and family-centered care, patients define their “family” and determine how they and their family will participate in care and decision making. While patient- and family-centered care can improve the experience of care, safety, and quality, it also can improve the learning environment for students and trainees.
The author shares personal stories to illustrate the core concepts of patient- and family-centered care, when they are present in health care interactions, and when they are not. Drawing from these stories and the author’s experience in working with academic medical centers and other health care organizations over many decades, recommendations for changes in medical education are suggested that can contribute to the development of a health care workforce with the skills and commitment to partner respectfully, effectively, and authentically with patients and families. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act gives new impetus for building a health care delivery system and related educational programs to support patient- and family-centered practice.