For older patients with chronic conditions, providing dignity of care is an important aspect of improving overall quality of care. Dignity can be appropriately defined as one’s sense of self worth. In healthcare, however, respecting dignity more so encompasses other values such as patient privacy and autonomy. By reminding ourselves of the value in patient dignity, we can identify specific aspects of care to effectively improve patient outcomes.
According to an NHS survey, patients associated dignified care with individual respect and treatment alongside shared decision making and privacy. Performing medical tasks, such as examinations and lab testing, weighed less in terms of importance when evaluating dignified care. Therefore, it is important to build personalized relationships with patients to cultivate treatment plans with dignity in mind.
Patients are facing many vulnerabilities when receiving care for their chronic diseases. They may become confounded with important medical checkups and examinations from multiple teams of physicians and other healthcare providers. Older patient populations have reported personal interactions within the healthcare system which have led to a loss of respectful communication and unfavorable assumptions. These actions can cause barriers where a patient may be reluctant to follow treatment plans. It is our role as providers to protect patient dignity through all means possible.
Protecting patient dignity can be done through improvements in physician-patient communication. For example, expressing statements of empathy and engaging in active listening are valid ways to support patient dignity. Chronically ill patients may be going through additional stress from high treatment costs. They may also feel a sense of uncertainty on whether their chronic conditions will ever improve. Working with a collaborative mindset with the patient can help gain patient trust and improve patient engagement.
With the increased implementation of e-health solutions, patient privacy and data security have become important elements of healthcare processes. Physicians now have an added ethical responsibility to maintain patient-centered care without compromising patient health information. When patients seek medical care, they are essentially forced into putting their trust into a healthcare system that they hope is secure. Online provider platforms must be protected and held liable for patient health information transmitted either remotely or within a health facility.
Health consumers, an Experian study reported, may be wary of adopting online platforms to communicate with their physician. 58 percent expressed that privacy and anonymity is essential or very important. Almost 70 percent further indicated the importance of functional security safeguards when using online health platforms. Fortunately, the majority of medical web applications are utilizing secure API, sensitive data encryption, and increased restrictive access to patient health information.
By proactively ensuring these patient values, dignity and quality of care can be markedly improved, especially in older, chronic care populations. Healthcare management should be focused on improving patient outcomes through communication that is both private and secure. Physician organizations can make a meaningful impact on patient care if they coordinate systems that are both pragmatic and capable of protecting patient dignity.