Person-centered care | A Message from the Dean

One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,—and one that I find most impressionable—is, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” A good starting point to address these inequalities is to provide person-centered care. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services defines person-centered care as “integrated health care services delivered in a setting and manner that is responsive to the individual and their goals, values and preferences, in a system that empowers patients and providers to make effective care plans together.”

As our patients seek dental care, we are willing and able to meet those needs, especially with comprehensive disciplines and providers practicing in the School of Dentistry. Unfortunately, there are times we acknowledge that skills are not used to the highest level of our scope; not due to our abilities, but to things we may or may not understand.

For example, when we provide a care plan or treatment for a patient, many factors come into play beyond materials, techniques, and the number of surfaces or quadrants. We must acknowledge and understand non-medical factors that will contribute to improved outcomes and patient acceptance of treatment options. Groups like The World Health Organization and the FDI World Dental Federation have focused on the Social Determinants of Health, or “the causes of the causes.” There is evidence that social determinants of health—such as neighborhood conditions, poverty, employment status, education and employment, and housing insecurity—are potential drivers of ongoing disparities. For many of our patients it is important to understand if any of these factors are influencing how patients comply and select treatment options. A better understanding of the barriers to care help us create a health system with person-centered care and improve health outcomes.

Another factor to consider is referred to as trauma-informed care (TIC). It has been defined in many ways, but we consider the following: understanding the impact of trauma on the physical, emotional, and mental health of our patients and how service rendered in our clinic may retraumatize individuals. This can be a challenging concept to blend  with our daily workflows. Similar to social determinants of health, TIC may affect a patient without our knowledge, unless a patient discloses a past event. Many of these events involve some level of intrusion of a person’s body,  which can influence how a patient interacts with health care providers and receives care. For this reason, when creating a person-centered patient environment, it should be based on knowledge of the impact of trauma and providing care in a welcoming and engaging way for our patients, staff, students, and faculty.

Let’s all do our part to create a clinical environment that is person-centered for all.