There are many definitions of patient or consumer-centred care, but at heart these all describe “an approach to the planning, delivery and evaluation of health care that is grounded in mutually beneficial partnerships among health care providers, patients and families”.[1]

Drawing on the work of the Picker Foundation it is generally accepted that the most important aspects of patient or consumer-centre care include: 

  • Respect for patients’ preferences and values;
  • Emotional support;
  • Physical comfort;
  • Information, communication and education;
  • Continuity and transition;
  • Coordination of care;
  • The involvement of family and friends; and
  • Access to care.[2]

For the International Association of Patients’ Organisations (IAPO), the essence of consumer or patient-centred healthcare is that the healthcare system should be designed and delivered to address the healthcare needs and preference of patients, so that healthcare delivers better health and wellbeing, and is cost-effective and appropriate. 


IAPO identifies five principles that underpin patient-centred healthcare: 

  1. Respect: Patients and carers have a fundamental right to patient-centred healthcare that meets their unique needs, preferences and values, as well as their autonomy and independence.    
  2. Choice and empowerment: Patients have a right and responsibility to participate, to their level of ability and preference, as a partners in making healthcare decisions that affect their lives. This requires a responsive health service which provides suitable choices in treatment and management options that fit in with patients’ needs, and encouragement and support for patients and carers that direct and manage care to achieve the best possible quality of life. Patients’ organisations must be empowered to play meaningful leadership roles in supporting patients and their families to exercise their right to make informed healthcare choices.    
  3. Patient involvement in health policy: Patients and patients’ organisations deserve to share the responsibility of healthcare policy-making through meaningful and supported engagement in all levels and at all points of decision-making, to ensure that they are designed with the patient at the centre. This should not be restricted to healthcare policy but include, for example, social policy that will ultimately impact on patients’ lives.    
  4. Access and support: Patients must have access to the healthcare services warranted by their condition. This includes access to safe, quality and appropriate services, treatments preventative care and health promotion activities. Provision should be made to ensure that all patients can access necessary services, regardless of their condition or socio-economic status. For patients to achieve the best possible quality of life, healthcare must support patients’ emotional requirements, and consider non-health factors such as education, employment and family issues which impact on their approach to healthcare choices and management.    
  5. Information: Accurate, relevant and comprehensive information is essential to enable patients and carers to make informed decisions about healthcare treatment and living with their condition. Information must be presented in an appropriate format according to health literacy principles considering the individual’s condition, language, age, understanding, abilities and culture.[3]   


[1] Institute for Patient and Family Centred Care (2010) in Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (2011) Patient-centred care: Improving quality and safety through partnerships with patients and consumers, ACSQHC, Sydney, p7.   

[2] Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (2011) Patient-centred care: Improving quality and safety through partnerships with patients and consumers, ACSQHC, Sydney, p7.

[3] International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations (2006) Declaration on Patient-Centred Healthcare (IAPO: London)