Delivering patient-centered care is one of the six dimensions of quality health care as well as one of the five competencies heath care professionals need to ensure that health care services meet the goal of improving and ensuring patient safety. 1,2  Providing patient-centered care is described as:

            “identify, respect, and care about patients’ differences, values, preferences,

            and expressed needs; relieve pain and suffering; coordinate continuous care;

            listen to, clearly inform, communicate with, and educate patients; share decision

            making and management; and continuously advocate disease prevention, wellness,

            and promotion of healthy lifestyles, including a focus on population health”. 2

Another term used for patient-centered care is person-centered health care, which considers the individual as an entire person instead of  focusing solely on the patient with respect to their diagnosis or diagnoses.3  A key element of practicing person-centered health care is shared decision making between the individual receiving the care and the individuals delivering the health care.4 

The IOM’s comprehensive description of patient-centered care is somewhat overwhelming when considering how clinical laboratory professionals can focus on patient-centered or person-centered clinical laboratory science practice.  However, there is one area which all health care practitioners including clinical laboratory professionals can make their practice more patient-centered or person-centered:  communication with patients.   Focusing on communication, specifically to “clearly inform, communicate with, and educate patients” is a key activity that will improve patient safety.2   Educating patients is the responsibility of all health care professionals–physicians, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, clinical laboratory professionals–an aspect that requires an interaction between the patient and health care professional.3 

Clinical laboratory testing is an important element of diagnosing disease, establishing prognosis and monitoring treatment.  Thus patients, particularly those with chronic diseases, will encounter the clinical laboratory multiple times, throughout their many encounters with the health care system.  Just as patients want information about their disease process, they want to know how to prepare themselves for clinical laboratory tests and to understand what their laboratory tests mean.5  Individuals want to participate in their own care and they want to receive information about all of the care that they receive including clinical laboratory testing. 

Medical Laboratory Scientists (MLS) and Medical Laboratory Technicians (MLT) are appropriate health professionals to communicate with patients about how to prepare for their clinical laboratory test, how to take care of them self after a venipuncture, what a clinical laboratory test analyzes, and which substances interfere with test results.  This type of information can be shared in written form, such as the Patient and Family Laboratory Safety Tip Brochures developed by the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) Patient Safety Committee.6 These brochures are written in an easy-to-read fashion using non-technical language, based upon evidence-based information.  These brochures can be downloaded, printed and shared with patients prior to or just after specimen collection.  They can also be distributed to care providers who can give them to patients when a clinical laboratory test is ordered. 

Sharing information about clinical laboratory testing with patients and their families is an opportunity to incorporate person-centered care into the practice of clinical laboratory science that can improve patient outcomes, patient satisfaction and patient safety.

1.  Institute of Medicine.  2001.  Crossing the Quality Chasm:  A New Health System for the 21st Century.  Washington, D.C., National Academy Press.

2..Institute of Medicine.  2003.  Health Professions Education. A Bridge to Quality. Washington, D.C., National Academy Press.  (p. 45)

 3.  Santana, M.J., Manalili, K., Jolley, R.J., Zlinsky, S., Quan, J., Lu, M.  2018.  How to practice person-centred care: a conceptual framework.  Health Expectations.  21: 429-440.

4.  National Patient Advocate Foundation.  Roadmap to Consumer Clarity in Health care Decision-Making.   www.npaf.org

5.  Falcon, M., Segura, M.R., Perez-Carceles, M.D., Osuna, E., Luna, A. 2010.  Health-related information provided to patients attending a private clinic for laboratory tests in Spain.  Patient Education and Counseling.  78(1): 134-137.

6.  American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science.   Patient Safety Resources:  Patient Safety Tips Brochures for Patients and Providers.  (https://www.ascls.org/patient-safety-resources)