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Health Expect. 2015 Oct;18(5):1139-50. doi: 10.1111/hex.12087. Epub 2013 May 22.

The politics of patient-centred care.

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Research & Evaluation Unit, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada.
Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada.



Despite widespread belief in the importance of patient-centred care, it remains difficult to create a system in which all groups work together for the good of the patient. Part of the problem may be that the issue of patient-centred care itself can be used to prosecute intergroup conflict.


This qualitative study of texts examined the presence and nature of intergroup language within the discourse on patient-centred care.


A systematic SCOPUS and Google search identified 85 peer-reviewed and grey literature reports that engaged with the concept of patient-centred care. Discourse analysis, informed by the social identity approach, examined how writers defined and portrayed various groups.


Managers, physicians and nurses all used the discourse of patient-centred care to imply that their own group was patient centred while other group(s) were not. Patient organizations tended to downplay or even deny the role of managers and providers in promoting patient centredness, and some used the concept to advocate for controversial health policies. Intergroup themes were even more obvious in the rhetoric of political groups across the ideological spectrum. In contrast to accounts that juxtaposed in-groups and out-groups, those from reportedly patient-centred organizations defined a 'mosaic' in-group that encompassed managers, providers and patients.


The seemingly benign concept of patient-centred care can easily become a weapon on an intergroup battlefield. Understanding this dimension may help organizations resolve the intergroup tensions that prevent collective achievement of a patient-centred system.


discourse analysis; health personnel; health services organization and administration; patient-centred care; social identification

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