Benefits And Barriers Of A Family-Centered Approach To Holistic Patient Care

Family caregivers spend an average of 24.4 hours per week to take care of their sick relative.  In the past, family caregivers usually remain invisible using healthcare encounters and are usually not identified as a unit of support in the health records of patients.  However, in recent years, studies in the United States showed that the implementation of family-centered approach is beneficial for persons with serious illnesses as well as the caregivers, specifically in pediatric and geriatric patients. Here is an overview of its core concepts, benefits, and barriers.

Core Concepts of  Patient And Family-Centered Care

The family framework is a simple, low technology approach in providing holistic patient care. According to the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care, there are four core concepts of patient- and family-centered care.  The first core concept is dignity and respect, which means that health care professionals must listen and respect the decisions of the patient and the family.  The second core concept is information sharing meaning that patients and  families should be given complete and accurate data so that they can make informed decisions.  The third core concept is participation. The patients and families are empowered through ensuring they participate in the decision-making process. The last core concept of collaboration highlights the need for all individuals (patients, families, and health care professionals) to work together for the betterment of the patient.

Benefits Of Family Approach

The major benefit of this approach is the shift of the control and power of patient care from the individuals who deliver it to the ones who receive it. This approach recognizes the autonomy of patients, which is a major concept in bioethics and rehabilitation.  The importance of families in promoting health and well-being of every member is also emphasized. In previous years, family-based treatment modalities such as meditation or mindfulness have been shown to have benefits for the whole family.  For instance, it has been demonstrated that such approaches are effective in addressing eating disorders and depression among children.

By listening to the patients and families about their experiences and hearing what’s important to them, healthcare professionals can improve their delivery of care. In a study, researchers found that parents’ satisfaction increased as much as 70% after the implementation of family-centered care. These professionals also learn how care systems work and not just how they are supposed to work. As such, this approach is mutually beneficial to both health care professionals and patients as both of their needs are fulfilled.

Barriers To A Family Approach

Since 1993, family-centered approach has been a priority for hospitals, states the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.  Nevertheless, there are numerous barriers to its successful implementation. For example, the different meanings of family-centered care in the discipline causes confusion to how it should be practiced. Moreover, the roles and boundaries of the health professionals and the family remain unclear.

Most importantly, the attitudes, values, and perspectives of healthcare professionals also affect the use of family approach in hospital settings. One of the things that influence their attitudes is their lack of knowledge of how to implement it.  Some professionals also mentioned that they do not support this approach because the outcomes are difficult to measure.

The main objective of family-centered approach is to respect the patient’s decision about his or her care and to emphasize the role of the family in the treatment.  While there are advantages to the approach, there are still barriers on how it can be implemented in reality. Further research is warranted to determine its effectiveness and to help hospitals transition to a patient- and family-centered approach.