Picker Principles of Patient Centered Care


The Eight Picker Principles of Patient-Centered Care originated with the Seven Dimensions of Patient-Centered Care, whose development was traced in the 1993 groundbreaking book Through the Patient’s Eyes. Using a wide range of focus groups—recently discharged patients, family members, physicians and non-physician hospital staff—combined with a review of pertinent literature, researchers from Harvard Medical School, on behalf of Picker Institute and The Commonwealth Fund, defined seven primary dimensions of patient-centered care. These were:

  • Respect for patients’ values, preferences and expressed needs
  • Coordination and integration of care
  • Information, communication and education
  • Physical comfort
  • Emotional support and alleviation of fear and anxiety
  • Involvement of family and friends
  • Transition and continuity

When these were renamed the Picker Principles of Patient-Centered Care in 1987, an eighth was added, Access to care.

The Eight Picker Principles of Patient-Centered Care embody Picker Institute’s conviction that all patients deserve high-quality healthcare, and that patients’ views and experiences are integral to efforts to improvement efforts. The Eight Principles are

(Please click on each principle to see a short video presentation.)

Respect for patients’ values, preferences and expressed needs
Patients want to be kept informed regarding their medical condition and involved in decision-making. Patients indicate that they want hospital staff to recognize and treat them in an atmosphere that is focused on the patient as an individual with a presenting medical condition.

  • Illness and medical treatment may have an impact on quality of life. Care should be provided in an atmosphere that is respectful of the individual patient and focused on quality-of-life issues.
  • Informed and shared decision-making is a central component of patient-centered care.
  • Provide the patient with dignity, respect and sensitivity to his/her cultural values.

Coordination and integration of care
Patients, in focus groups, expressed feeling vulnerable and powerless in the face of illness. Proper coordination of care can ease those feelings. Patients identified three areas in which care coordination can reduce feelings of vulnerability:

  • Coordination and integration of clinical care
  • Coordination and integration of ancillary and support services
  • Coordination and integration of front-line patient care

Information, communication and education
Patients often express the fear that information is being withheld from them and that they are not being completely informed about their condition or prognosis. Based on patient interviews, hospitals can focus on three kinds of communication to reduce these fears:

  • Information on clinical status, progress and prognosis
  • Information on processes of care
  • Information and education to facilitate autonomy, self-care and health promotion

Physical comfort
The level of physical comfort patients report has a tremendous impact on their experience. From the patient’s perspective, physical care that comforts patients, especially when they are acutely ill, is one of the most elemental services that caregivers can provide. Three areas were reported as particularly important to patients:

  • Pain management
  • Assistance with activities and daily living needs
  • Hospital surroundings and environment kept in focus, including ensuring that the patient’s needs for privacy are accommodated and that patient areas are kept clean and comfortable, with appropriate accessibility for visits by family and friends.

Emotional support and alleviation of fear and anxiety
Fear and anxiety associated with illness can be as debilitating as the physical effects. Caregivers should pay particular attention to:

  • Anxiety over clinical status, treatment and prognosis
  • Anxiety over the impact of the illness on themselves and family
  • Anxiety over the financial impact of illness

Involvement of family and friends
Patients continually addressed the role of family and friends in the patient experience, often expressing concern about the impact illness has on family and friends. These principles of patient-centered care were identified as follows:

  • Accommodation, by clinicians and caregivers, of family and friends on whom the patient relies for social and emotional support
  • Respect for and recognition of the patient “advocate’s” role in decision-making
  • Support for family members as caregivers
  • Recognition of the needs of family and friends

Continuity and transition
Patients often express considerable anxiety about their ability to care for themselves after discharge. Meeting patient needs in this area requires staff to:

  • Provide understandable, detailed information regarding medications, physical limitations, dietary needs, etc.
  • Coordinate and plan ongoing treatment and services after discharge and ensure that patients and family understand this information
  • Provide information regarding access to clinical, social, physical and financial support on a continuing basis

Access to care
Patients need to know they can access care when it is needed. Attention must also be given to time spent waiting for admission or time between admission and allocation to a bed in a ward. Focusing mainly on ambulatory care, the following areas were of importance to the patient:

  • Access to the location of hospitals, clinics and physician offices
  • Availability of transportation
  • Ease of scheduling appointments
  • Availability of appointments when needed
  • Accessibility to specialists or specialty services when a referral is made
  • Clear instructions provided on when and how to get referrals

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