As trustees, it's easy to view the hospital as a business instead of a place of healing. But as reform pushes hospitals to achieve better outcomes with fewer resources, patient-centered care will take on growing importance. Leaders need to recognize that patient-centered care shifts caregivers' focus from the problem or diagnosis to the patient, a shift that can result in significant improvements in clinical outcomes and cost reduction.

Evidence shows that patient-centered care improves outcomes by reducing length of stay, readmissions and emergency department visits, and enhances patient compliance with care plans. Patient satisfaction is, in turn, improved. And, in a patient-centered environment, employees are more satisfied with their work and are more willing to stay in their jobs.

Developing a patient-centered culture, however, takes time. It requires a shift in care delivery in which the focus at all times is on doing what's best for patients and their family members.

"Addressing the physical aspects of patient-centered care is easy," says Susan Frampton, president of Planetree, Derby, Conn. "Changing the culture is difficult to do."

Sidebar - Enterprisewide Readiness Assessment

Sidebar - Key Organizational Attributes