This pandemic has shown us — among so many other things — that older adults tend to be much higher-risk than their younger counterparts when it comes to health. They’re often more likely to develop and live with chronic conditions — plus, they live in constant concern over more serious health ramifications like injury and/or hospitalization.
As such, helping older adults maintain and improve their health on a regular basis should be of the utmost importance for us all. Unfortunately, today’s healthcare practices aren’t always fully suited for seniors’ unique needs — but hopefully soon, that’s all about to change.
In addition to the rise of virtual care solutions among older adults, coming out of this pandemic, more and more healthcare providers will start to shift their focus away from condition-centered care models — and opt instead for patient-centered and preventive approaches to care.
What exactly is the difference? We're here to break it down. Read on to learn why proactive, preventive care far outweighs condition-centered care, and how seniors — as well as providers, payers, and the entire healthcare ecosystem — can benefit immensely from a more holistic care model.
What is condition-centered care?
Just as the name condition-centered implies, this form of care focuses primarily on treating and/or improving a patient’s specific condition or disease — one that has already become chronic or acute — rather than preventing new ones from occurring later on.
For example, if a patient has diabetes, condition-centered care would involve all the aspects that help them to treat, maintain, and ideally improve that specific condition and its impacts.
Though this type of care can of course be effective, it’s reactive, not proactive. It deals with conditions as they arise — but it does absolutely nothing to prevent or delay new conditions or health concerns from emerging down the line.
Older adults need an all-encompassing healthcare solution — an approach that helps them to maintain and manage living with their current conditions, while preventing the onset of additional ones later on. Fortunately, that’s precisely what preventive care can do.
What is preventive care?
Contrary to the condition-centered care model, preventive care is a much more proactive, hands-on approach to care. It consists of any healthcare procedures and practices aimed at preventing and prolonging disease, injury, hospitalizations, and otherwise.
Instead of simply treating existing conditions as they arise, preventive care helps patients take active measures to maintain their health, improve their overall health outcomes, and prevent any new issues or conditions from occurring in the future.
Typically, preventive care can involve any of the following, plus more:
- Frequent check-ups and visits with primary care providers (PCPs)
- Annual or biannual visits to the dentist, gynecologist, and otherwise
- Immunizations (i.e. flu shots)
- Preventive screenings (i.e. for cancer or blood pressure)
- Mammograms and colonoscopies
- Routine blood tests
Let’s say a patient is overweight or obese — and thus, at a greater risk for developing a condition like type II diabetes somewhere down the line. A preventive care model would focus on the steps that the patient could take in order to lose weight, prevent additional weight gain, and lead a healthier overall lifestyle.
As such, by tackling any potential health repercussions head on, before they arise, preventive care would help this patient prevent this chronic condition before it ever came to fruition.
What is patient-centered care?
Patient-centered care is a more holistic approach to care that involves treating patients (and their loved ones) with the utmost level of respect, and allowing them to play an active, hands-on role throughout their care process — and be involved in the decisions that are made during their care process.
In a patient-centered care model, patients’ opinions, feedback, preferences, and health goals are heavily taken into account and considered by their PCPs. Think of it like a three-way partnership between patients, providers, and the patients’ loved ones or caregivers.
The graphic below summarizes the 8 dimensions of patient-centered primary care, as defined by research from the Picker Institute.
By allowing patients to have their voices heard, they ultimately feel empowered to take their health into their own hands, adhere to their care plan and a healthy lifestyle on their own.
Why preventive and patient-centered care are ideal for older adult patients
Obviously we all want to be healthy and thriving for as long as we possibly can — yet sadly, when it comes down to it, that tends to be a lot easier said than done.
Because older adults are in the stage of their lives in which they are at a much higher risk for developing chronic conditions — in addition to their concerns about injuries and hospitalizations — they need to be on the offense, not the defense, when it comes to staying healthy.
It’s especially imperative that they are properly informed, involved, and supported in maintaining an optimal level of health on their own — and that they’re able to easily prevent and detect any serious health issues before they become detrimental.
For these reasons, both preventive and patient-centered care far outweigh the more passive, condition-centered approach to care.
Preventive and patient-centered care can help senior patients to not only prevent the possibility of conditions and/or injuries arising — they can also give them a better understanding as to what conditions they have, and how to properly manage them. This, in turn, can result in fewer hospitalizations — saving a great deal of money for both patients and health systems.
Transitioning towards a new era of preventive, patient-centered eldercare
For now, it’s quite clear that both preventive and patient-centered care are highly appealing for older adult patients — and they certainly bring much more to the table than condition-centered care has to offer.
Coming out of the pandemic, it’s clear that our approach to eldercare could stand for some serious reform.
In addition to more virtual care solutions, it’s pretty inevitable that the prevalence of preventive and patient-centered care will only continue to expand, and more and more providers will transition towards this type of care (if they’re not already providing it, that is).
By empowering older adults to play a more proactive, hands-on role in their healthcare process — coupled with better access to preventive, hands-on care — they’ll be able to take charge, improve their health outcomes, and remain independently thriving like never before.