Components of person-centered medicine in medical treatment and care

Main Article Content

Jon Snaedal


Person-centered medicine has emerged as a response to the organ-specific, technical, fragmented medical treatment and care that has evolved during the last Century inside healthcare systems worldwide. Nevertheless, person-centered medicine is not a new concept and is rooted in ancient medicine, exemplified here by the medical culture of the ancient Greeks. The main components of person-centered medicine described here are the cornerstone for successful medical treatment and care. The physician needs to use his communicative skills for this purpose, employ attentive and empathic listening, be aware of the cultural, social and educational background of the patient and understand the expectations of the patient for the therapy ahead. For this to be possible, the physician needs to have the necessary professional competence and to adhere to the basic ethical principles of medicine.  He also needs to collaborate not only with the patient and in some instances with the patient’s family, but he needs also to collaborate with other healthcare workers within the therapeutic team or with individual professionals in healthcare. He needs to adhere to many of the principles of evidence-based medicine, but in a person-centered fashion. For this to be possible, the undergraduate medical curriculum needs to include these components as part of its teaching in addition to their being included within mainstream, continuous professional development programs.

Article Details

Clinical and Electronic Communication
Author Biography

Jon Snaedal, National University Hospital, Reykjavik, Iceland and Past President, World Medical Association

Born in 1950 in Iceland, Jon Snaedal received his medical degree from the Medical Faculty, University of Iceland in 1976. He specialized in internal medicine and geriatrics in Sweden during 1979 –1984. He has worked as a specialist in Geriatric Medicine, National University Hospital in Reykjavik, Iceland 1984-1997 and since then he has been the head of the Psychogeriatric Clinic, including the Memory Clinic at the same hospital. Since 2004 he is Associate Professor in Geriatric Medicine. He has done research in the fields of geriatrics and dementia, specially Alzheimer´s disease, and is the author and coauthor of many papers on that subject in Icelandic and International medical literature. He was the vice president of the Icelandic Medical Association 1996-2004, the chair of the Nordic Medical Council 2003-2005 and a member of the Council of the World Medical Association 2001-2005. During 2003-2005 he was the chair of the Medical Ethics Committee of the WMA. In 2006 he was elected President of the WMA for the period 2007-2008. He is now an honorary member of the Icelandic Medical Association.He is married to Gudrun Karlsdottir RN and they have altogether seven children. 


Mezzich, J.E. (2011). Building Person-centered Medicine through Dialogue and Partnerships: Perspective from the International Network for Person-centered Medicine. International Journal of Person Centered Medicine 1 (1) 10-13.

Cloninger, C.R., Zohar, A.H. & Cloninger, K.M. (2010). Promotion of well-being in person centered mental health care. Focus 8 (2) 165-179.

Gulzar, A., Niazi S. & Niaz-ud-Din. (2006). Biotechnology and Genomics in Medicine - A Review World Journal of Medical Sciences 1 (2) 72-81.

Besdine, R.W. (1983). The educational utility of comprehensive functional assessment in the elderly. Journal of the American Geriatric Society 31 651-660.

Norman, G.R. (1985). Defining competence: a methodological review In: Assessing Clinical Competence pp. 15-35. (Eds. Neufeld, V.R. & Norman, G.R.). New York, NY: Springer.

Epstein, R.M. & Hundert, E.M. (2002). Defining and assessing professional competence. Journal of the American Medical Association 287, 226-235.

Singer, C. & Underwood, E. A. (1962). A Short History of Medicine. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, Library of Congress ID: 62-21080.

van Weel-Baumgarten, E.M., Brouwers, M.H. Best evidence teaching of person-centered basic communication skills: a reflection.

Windsor, J.A., Rossaak, J.I., Chaung, D., Ng, A., Bissett, I.P. & Johnson, M.H. (2008). Telling the truth to Asian patients in the hospital setting. New Zealand Medical Journal 121, 92-99.

Snaedal, J. (2011). Person Centred Medicine for the Older Patient, with Specific Reference to the Person with Dementia. International Journal of Person Centered Medicine 1 (1) 53-55.

Joshi, K. & De Crescenzo, N. (2008). Informing personalized medicine. Drug Discovery & Development 11 (7) 14–18.

Campbell, L.J. & Cole, K.D. (1987). Geriatric assessment teams. In: Clinics in Geriatric Medicine Vol 3. Geriatric Assessment, pp. 99-109. (Eds. Rubinstein, L.Z., Campbell, L.J. & Cane, R.L.) WB Saunders.