My 3 Key Components of Patient-centered Care

Collaboration, respect, and compassion are important for patient-centered care

Charlene Marshall avatar

by Charlene Marshall |

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Navigating the healthcare system on a regular basis can be draining. This is especially true considering that many hospitals, acute care clinics, and family physicians are struggling to deal with a backlog of patients in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is predicting a difficult season for influenza and other respiratory viruses, so these backlogs may continue for the foreseeable future.

As a patient with a chronic respiratory illness, this scares me. I was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in the spring of 2016 and have been doing everything I can to protect my lungs ever since. Not only does the increased risk of catching one of these viruses frighten me, but so does the stress that a severe flu season could have on the healthcare system.

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I’ve noticed a difference in the quality of healthcare provided since the pandemic started. Understandably, healthcare workers are exhausted, and at times, they must deal with an increase in the number of sick patients, and with fewer resources.

Thankfully, the members of my regular care team here in Canada, including my new pulmonologist, transplant coordinator, and family doctor, aren’t letting their exhaustion affect my medical care.

I recently had a follow-up appointment to check my lungs after having COVID-19 for the second time. The first pulmonary function tests (PFTs) I took after COVID-19 weren’t good — my lung function had declined a whopping 14% cumulatively, which left my pulmonologist concerned. Thankfully, the PFTs I recently took were a little better, which makes me happy, because I feared they’d be worse.

Don’t be rude

Overall, my appointment went really well that day. However, I couldn’t help but reflect on what was going on in the waiting room and reception area.

It’s not uncommon for clinics to run behind on appointments, which sometimes take longer than expected and delay other appointments. Of course, this can be frustrating, but it shouldn’t ever be an excuse to mistreat the staff or cause additional stress for others in the waiting room.

At my recent appointment, some patients were upset that their appointments had been delayed, and they were disrespecting the reception staff, who couldn’t do anything about the appointment times. Their anger and impatience made others in the waiting room uncomfortable.

I’ll admit that the healthcare system needs a lot of improvement to be more patient-centered, but in most of my experiences, everyone is trying their best. Mutual respect must be a key component of healthcare, especially now, when everyone is struggling because of the pandemic.

In light of all of this, I’ve compiled a list of three components I believe are necessary for patient-centered care to thrive.


In a true patient-centered care experience, the patient should be considered an expert in their disease. The physician and the patient should work together by discussing what is working in a treatment regimen and what should be improved.

One thing I really appreciate about my pulmonologist is that she’s collaborative. She always explores multiple options with me and invites my thoughts and opinions about any changes to my medical care. She also considers my quality of life, especially regarding medication side effects.

Lastly, she’s open to my preference to try subtle changes in my treatment regimen first, and then assess how things go before trying something different.


I respect the knowledge, education, and compassion it takes to be a doctor, especially one who specializes in certain areas of expertise. I also expect respect in return. At a recent appointment, my pulmonologist spent time listening to and validating my concerns, which demonstrates a mutual respect that should exist in all patient-centered care.

I appreciated the time my pulmonologist spent with me, and in return, I did my best to be patient and aware of the challenges she’s facing right now. This includes things like schedule problems for certain tests, surgery backlogs, the unfortunate decline of some patients, appointment delays, or sudden staff cancellations due to illness. These things are difficult for patients, but they’re also challenging for physicians.


IPF has no cure, and as a result, pulmonologists need to be compassionate in their approach to discussing the next steps if medication doesn’t work and our disease progresses. It must be hard for doctors to discuss palliative care options with patients they’ve known for a long time. My pulmonologist demonstrates her compassion by considering community resources to support my mental health in addition to my physical health. Compassion must be a part of the patient-centered care experience.

In your opinion, what other components are important for a positive healthcare experience? Please share in the comments below. 

Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


Catherine Walther avatar

Catherine Walther

Well said, Charlene.


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