Patient-centered care is said to have a myriad of benefits; however, there is a lack of agreement on what exactly it consists of and how clinicians should deliver it for the use of their patients. In the context of maternity services and, mainly, for vulnerable women, we explored how clinicians describe patient-centered care and how the concept is understood in their practice. 

We undertook a qualitative study using interviews. Based on an interview guide developed from various patient surveys, a focus group focused on the following questions: How do clinicians describe patient-centered care? How does being patient-centered affect how care is delivered? Is this different for vulnerable populations? And if so, how? We sampled obstetricians and gynecologists, midwives, primary care physicians, and physician assistants from a health management organization and fee for service clinician providers from two states in the US covering insured and Medicaid populations.

Building a relationship between clinician and patient is central to what clinicians believe patient-centered care is. Providing individually appropriate care, engaging family members, transferring information from clinician to patient and from patient to clinician, and actively engaging with patients are key concepts. However, vulnerable women did not benefit from patient-centered care without first having some of their clinician’s nonmedical needs.