‘How to achieve better healthcare’

From Moses Emorinken, Abuja

Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, has said respect, communication and empathy for patients, regardless of their social or economic status, are vital for quality health care delivery.

Okowa spoke in Abuja during the National Health Summit organised by the Nigerian Medical Association and the Commonwealth Medical Association.

He stressed that while improved funding, adequate equipment and facilities and  manpower play a critical role in health care delivery, focusing on the patient and creating an experience of respect, trust and confidentiality could significantly improve healthcare  delivery.

In his keynote address at the event, where he received an award, Okowa,  pointed out that the patient-centered care (PCC) model will catalyse the healthcare to elevated heights.

”Patient-centered care is the practice of caring for patients (and their families) in ways that are engaging, meaningful and valuable to the individual patient. Whilst we have made little progress in the areas of increased budgetary provision for health, development of health infrastructure, improved life expectancy at birth and training of healthcare professionals, the healthcare system is still far from what it should be.

“The PCC model acknowledges that patients should actively participate in health-related decisions in a manner that inspires trust and confidence in the healthcare system. Globally, the PCC model is emerging as a key dimension to providing quality healthcare. Hence, enhancing the patient experiences and delivering patient-centered care is on the agenda of virtually every country today.

“In contrast to the more traditional medical care model where the patient’s role is passive and the patient is seen more as just a recipient of treatment, the PCC model gives a voice to the patient since the patient’s role as an active partner in the treatment plan is not in doubt,” Okowa advised.

He explained that PCC emphasises the importance of understanding a patients’ health history, goals, choices, expectations, fears and anxieties as well as their perception of what they consider quality healthcare.

“Statistics indicate that 70 per cent of litigations resulting from poor patients’ experiences and adverse outcomes are often due to poor communication. In such cases, patients felt they were misled, neglected in the decision-making process and lacked proper understanding of the services provided, especially in the case of surgical procedures.

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“To improve the experience of care and ensure quality and safety, the family is regarded as equal members of the team; they are not left out in the design and implementation of the care plan. But even more importantly, family members are treated as respectable members of the team, not as visitors who cannot access certain areas of the hospital such as the intensive care and emergency units.

“Except for a few exemptions, most of our private and nearly public healthcare establishments in Nigeria still practise the traditional medical care model in healthcare delivery. There is hardly any communication as the patient and family play passive roles in the healthcare plan and, of course, the implementation.

“Anyone who has lived in Nigeria long enough and has had to visit our hospitals has at one time or the other experienced the dismissive attitude of many of our healthcare providers especially those in the front office. Empathy is key on the part of the professionals in the healthcare industry to ensure the best patient experiences and expectations of quality service,”  Okowa said.

He therefore urged doctors and other healthcare professionals to show exemplary character needed to build trust to provide the best available care and relationships with patients and families.

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