Health Surveys and Patient-centered Care

  • Medicine & Health
  • 1986

Harvey Picker had played an important role in commercializing X-rays and other forms of electronic imaging and became a significant donor with the money he made in the process. Making health care more humane became one particular interest. He wanted to encourage physicians and other professionals to treat patients as persons, not “imbeciles or inventory,” and he would not be content with small changes. In 1986 he established the Picker Institute, devoted to seeing medical treatment “through the patient’s eyes.” The institute is credited with coining the phrase “patient-centered care,” and promoting structural changes which would encourage it.

One Picker project to improve the quality of health care by more directly involving patients offered a grant to Beth Israel Hospital in Boston so they could conduct a survey of patients’ perception of their treatment, in conjunction with the Louis Harris polling firm. The survey uncovered a lack of trust among patients, and inadequate communication which led to incorrect pain management and confusion among patients about their treatment regimens. Picker initiatives brought systematic surveying to other hospitals as well, hosted conferences on the prevalence of patient dissatisfaction, and instigated efforts to make medical care less impersonal and more patient-driven. The Picker patient-satisfaction surveys subsequently became a standard measure of patient care worldwide, and are credited with substantially improving the delivery of medical services.

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