The idea of healthcare providers partnering with their patients is neither new nor niche. In fact, it’s considered a global health megatrend and has long been seen as a core element in a person-centered approach to care.
But what do we mean by partnership, why is it important, and what do we know about how to build a successful one?
What is partnership?
Partnership is when a patient and their healthcare professional meet as equals and work together towards identifying needs, making decisions, and treating or managing the condition.
A successful partnership is built on trust, respect, and an acknowledgment that both parties are experts – the patient brings expertise on their lived experience of their condition and the professional brings their training and professional expertise.
Why is it important?
1. Valuable perspectives
Patients and their families offer perspectives on their lives and conditions that healthcare professionals simply don’t have.
As noted in a 2018 position paper by the American College of Physicians on the principles for patient and family partnership in care, “patients know themselves better than anyone.” Therefore, “when patients participate, professionals do not have to make assumptions about their needs and preferences.” Instead, working together as equal partners, the professional and patient can establish goals and make decisions about treatment that are tailored to the individual’s situation and therefore more likely to be successful.
2. Improved outcomes
Studies from across healthcare show that, when people are engaged in their own care, this leads to better adherence, fewer symptoms, improved recovery, emotional health and psychological well-being, and a higher quality of life (see Park et al, 2018, for example).
Within hearing care, research shows that distrust in the professional or a lack of involvement in decision-making can lead to lower levels of hearing aid uptake and success (Poost-Foroosh et al, 2011; Ritter et al, 2020). Good partnerships build trust and prioritize shared decision-making, increasing the chances of successful treatment outcomes.
3. More satisfied patients and clinicians
In a 2020 global research project, Future Hearing Journeys, the Ida Institute found that, despite impressive technological advancements in hearing care, people with hearing loss still value human connection and the “human touch” in consultations.
This is backed up by studies that show higher satisfaction among people who are engaged in their own care (for example, Mosen et al, 2007). Delivering care based on partnership and person-centered principles has also been shown to increase job satisfaction and retention rates among staff (Park et al, 2018).
How can we build successful partnerships?
Despite a growing consensus about the importance of partnerships in healthcare, research suggests that real understanding of what it takes to build such partnerships – including the roles and responsibilities of each party – is still lacking. And the need is particularly clear in the field of hearing care, which is characterized by distrust on many levels.
Our animated resource, Partnering for Great Hearing Care, attempts to meet that need. Through interviews with people with hearing loss and their clinicians, we collected insights about successful partnerships and identified four key ingredients: building trust, connecting as people, being active partners, and inviting family and friends.
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