Skip Navigation U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Agency for Healthcare Research Quality
Archive print banner
2004 National Healthcare Quality Report

This information is for reference purposes only. It was current when produced and may now be outdated. Archive material is no longer maintained, and some links may not work. Persons with disabilities having difficulty accessing this information should contact us at: Let us know the nature of the problem, the Web address of what you want, and your contact information.

Please go to for current information.

Chapter 5. Patient Centeredness

Importance and Measures

As noted in the 2003 NHQR, "patient centeredness" is defined as: "[H]ealth care that establishes a partnership among practitioners, patients, and their families (when appropriate) to ensure that decisions respect patients' wants, needs, and preferences and that patients have the education and support they need to make decisions and participate in their own care1." Patient centeredness "encompasses qualities of compassion, empathy, and responsiveness to the need, values, and expressed preferences of the individual patient2."

Morbidity and Mortality

  • Patient centered approaches to care that rely on building a doctor-patient relationship, improving communication techniques, and fostering a positive atmosphere have been shown to improve the health status of patients3, 4.
  • A patient centered approach has been shown to lessen the symptom burden on patients5.
  • Patient centered care encourages patients to comply with and adhere to treatment regimens6, 7.
  • Patient centered care reduces the chance of misdiagnosis due to poor communication8.


  • Patient centeredness has been shown to reduce underuse and overuse of medical services9.
  • Patient centeredness can reduce the strain on system resources or save money by reducing the number of diagnostic tests and referrals4, 5.
  • Although some studies have shown that being patient centered reduces costs and use of health service resources 5, 10 others have shown that patient centeredness increases costs to providers, especially in the short run11.
  • The practice of patient centered care may reduce the risk factors that often lead to malpractice suits12, 13 however, others dispute the evidence of this14.


The NHQR tracks four measures of the patient experience of care. This section highlights two of these measures:

  • Patients who report that their doctor explains things clearly
  • Patients who report that their doctor shows respect for what they have to say


The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


AHRQ Advancing Excellence in Health Care