Health care has been evolving away from a “disease-centered model” and toward a “patient-centered model.” In the older, disease-centered model, physicians make almost all treatment decisions based largely on clinical experience and data from various medical tests. In a patient-centered model, patients become active participants in their own care and receive services designed to focus on their individual needs and preferences, in addition to advice and counsel from health professionals.
When patients and providers have a choice among treatment plans, a patient-centered approach has much to recommend it. This can happen when physicians do not agree on the optimal management for the condition or when different non-life-threatening outcomes may result from the different treatments available for a condition. Examples of such “preference-driven” conditions are benign enlargement of the prostate and visual problems resulting from cataracts. In such cases, the best treatment strategy depends on the strength of patients’ preferences for the different health outcomes that may result from a treatment decision.