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Establishing A Patient-Centered Care approach in EMS

Clear Communication is essential in Patient-Centered Care.

The concept of Patient-Centered Care (PCC) has been in practice in clinical settings for some time now. However, prehospital EMS providers may find PCC challenging as time with the patient is limited and interactions are often rapid. 

Patient-Centered Care is not only possible in the prehospital environment but can become the cornerstone of your Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) program. PCC is an approach that prioritizes the patient’s needs, preferences, and values, and involves collaboration between the patient, their family, and the healthcare team. Here are some quick tips to help establish a PCC program for the patients you serve. 

Establish Rapport: Building a rapport with the patient and their family is crucial to gaining their trust and ensuring effective communication. Start by introducing yourself, using the patient’s name, and asking how they would like to be addressed. Building a personal connection can help ease the patient’s anxiety and make them and their family feel more comfortable. 

Active Listening: Active listening involves paying attention to the patient’s verbal and nonverbal cues, asking clarifying questions, and acknowledging their concerns. Maintain eye contact with the patient. These simple practices help establish empathy and demonstrate that you are sincerely engaged. 

Respect Cultural Differences: Cultural differences can occasionally impact communication. Unique rituals or practices can appear to disrupt the “normal” treatment process. However, such beliefs and practices can have powerful impact on a patient’s psyche and outcomes. Be respectful of the patient’s cultural background and beliefs and where possible, adjust your processes accordingly. This can help build trust and prevent misunderstandings. 

Use Clear and Simple Language: Our industry is filled with jargon and acronyms. Our very name, EMS, is an acronym. We use them as part of our normal communications, just like in this blog. However, when communicating with patients and their families, such terms are not common and can be off-putting. Use plain language when speaking with a patient for family member. Use terms that are easily understandable. It is very easy to lose the trust of the patient or their family.  Using industry colloquialisms can lead to confusion and mistrust. A patient or their family member may feel as if you are talking over their heads. Using common terms can help patients better understand their condition and treatment options. 

Involve the Patient: Involve the patient in the decision-making process by explaining what options might be available to them along with the potential risks and benefits of each. Respect their preferences and choices. Allow them to ask questions and answer them as honestly as possible. This approach can help the patient feel more in control of their care and improve their overall satisfaction. 

Focus on Comfort: Patients, in emergency situations, may be in pain, frightened, or anxious. You are encountering them on the worst day of their lives. As EMS professionals, it is important to prioritize the patient’s comfort by providing pain relief, reassurance, and addressing their concerns. This can help reduce stress and anxiety for the patient and their family. 

Document Clearly: Clear documentation not only provides for a smooth transition to the Emergency Department staff but can help “put the pieces together” later should the patient need to recount the events. Document all interactions with the patient, including their medical history, vital signs, situation found, obstacles to care, and treatment provided. This approach can help prevent misunderstandings and ensure the patient receives the appropriate care in the future. 

Don’t predict outcomes: Prehospital providers are often pressured to give the patient advise or render an opinion on what happens to them moving forward. We have neither a crystal ball, or in most cases, the experience to give that level of information.  And, if your advice is incorrect, the results can have serious consequences. 

Follow Up: Following up with the patient or their family can often be a challenge in EMS. Provide them with contact information and encourage them to reach out with any questions or concerns. This approach can help ensure that the patient receives the appropriate care and support during their recovery. 

Attending conferences like the First There First Care & Gathering of Eagles Conference is essential for developing best practices like providing Patient-Centered Care. By using clear, simple language, establishing rapport, active listening, respecting cultural differences, involving the patient, focusing on comfort, documenting clearly, and following up, EMS professionals can provide care that prioritizes the patient’s needs, preferences, and values, and provide the patient and their family with a level of satisfaction and caring that displays how much you truly care.