For doctors, therapists and other clinicians, the goal of care is usually quite obvious: cure what ails the patient or alleviate suffering. But sometimes, a patient’s goal for their care is not immediately clear. Dr. Mitch Kaminski, a family doctor writing for the Washington Post, learned that the treatment or answers an individual seeks can often be revealed with a simple question:

“What are your goals for your care? How can I help you?”

Dr. Kaminski asked these questions while seeing his colleague’s medically complex elderly patient. The patient’s cardiologist and nephrologist had not been able to solve the man’s problems, and Dr. Kaminski faced what he called a medical catch-22, saying “When one condition is treated and gets better, the other condition gets worse. His [the patient’s] past year has been an endless cycle of medication adjustments carried out by dueling specialists and punctuated by emergency-room visits and hospitalizations.”

Doctors with medically complex patients sometimes focus more on diseases rather than holistically addressing the patient’s long-term plans. Realizing this, Dr. Kaminski decided to simply ask “What are your goals for your care? How can I help you?”

The patient’s answer: “I would like to be able to walk without falling.”

Knowing his patient’s desire, Dr. Kaminski started to feel more confident that he would be able to help. He ordered physical therapy at home, and later, hospice services were arranged. After the patient passed away, his wife visited Dr. Kaminski to discuss all of her care options. Dr. Kaminski was reassured that he had helped her husband fulfill the goals of his care.

Dr. Kaminski’s story illustrates that focusing on patients’ goals is key to delivering patient-centered care - and we’ve long understood the importance of appreciating patients’ goals. That's why in addition to designing plans of care centered on our patients’ specific desires for recovery, we implement fall prevention programs and conduct home visits to eliminate hazards for falls. We also offer printed collaterals that accompany our specialty programs. These materials enable our patients to understand their diagnoses, practice self-care to maximize the success of their rehabilitation and understand the care options that are available to them.

To read Dr. Kaminski’s emotional journey to embracing patients’ goals, read “A Doctor Discovers An Important Question Patients Should Be Asked” by Mitch Kaminski on The Washington Post.

By Kindred Hospital Rehabilitation Services