Person-centred care: Bridging current models of the clinician-patient relationship

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Stephen Buetow


Modern medicine threatens the ability of the clinician and the patient to care, and be cared about as whole, human individuals in health care.  However, the interests of patients are put behind those of the population and, on the authority of professionalism and patient-centred care, ahead of those of clinicians.  This situation has prompted the development of new models of the clinician-patient relationship: relationship-centred care, care as a ‘window mirror’ and person-centred care.  From my own vantage in primary care, this paper will discuss each of these models against the backdrop of so called patient-centred care.  This comparison will apply a common standard that differentiates light from shadow, both as physical phenomena that represent images in the world and as concepts that indicate what is present beyond representation.  I conclude that at least in continuing clinician‑patient relationships, which still characterize primary care, person-centred care maximizes the range of illumination in which clinicians and patients can be seen as individuals in social interaction. 

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Author Biography

Stephen Buetow, University of Auckland

Stephen Buetow is an Associate Professor in the Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Auckland, New Zealand, having also held academic positions in primary care in Australia (National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health) and England (National Primary Care Research and Development Centre in Manchester). With a PhD in Demography from the Australian National University and a broad background in the humanities and social sciences, Stephen produces health services research in diverse areas, with a particular analytical focus on challenging the clinician-centric discourse underpinning modern health care.  He has published two books and 100 peer reviewed papers (H-index of 16) in Journals including the Lancet and British Medical Journal.  Stephen is both a member of the Editorial Board and a regional (Oceania) Editor for the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice and the International Journal of Person-Centred Medicine.  In New Zealand he is a Public Health Research Committee member of the Health Research Council and has chaired several of its public health assessing committees.  He coordinates a postgraduate research methods course and has contributed significant service to his University, for example as Acting Head of Department during 2009-10.