Do patient autonomy preferences matter? Linking patient-centered care to patient-physician relationships and health outcomes

Soc Sci Med. 2010 Nov;71(10):1811-8. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.08.008. Epub 2010 Sep 15.


As health care systems seek to provide patient-centered care as a cornerstone of quality, the link between patient-centeredness and patient outcomes is a concern. Past research reveals inconsistent findings regarding the impact of patient-centeredness on patient outcomes, and few studies have investigated the factors that moderate this relationship. Most studies have used self-rated outcomes on a cross-sectional basis, even though most patient care is inherently longitudinal. The current study extends past research by examining the theoretical and empirical relationships between patients' perceptions of autonomy support and autonomy preferences with regard to their health outcomes. We hypothesized that autonomy preferences moderate the positive relationships between perceived autonomy support and patient-physician relationships, and on self-rated and objective health outcomes such that the relationships are more positive when patient autonomy preferences are high. Data were collected 3 times over a one-year period from a sample of 614 patients with type 2 diabetes in Taiwan. The results revealed strong support for the hypothesized relationships between perceived autonomy support and patient trust, satisfaction, and mental health-related quality of life (HRQoL) after adjusting for baseline scores; however, the direct link between autonomy support and patients' glycemic control was not significant. Specifically, patients with high decisional preference experienced a greater increase in subsequent trust and satisfaction than patients with low decisional preference. Further, patients with high information preference had a higher level of satisfaction over time than patients with low information preference. In addition, it was found that perceived autonomy support improved both physical and mental HRQoL but only if combined with high levels of information preference. This study provides evidence of a contingency perspective of the relationship between patient autonomy support and outcomes. By recognizing the uniqueness of each patient's autonomy preferences, healthcare practitioners can increase the efficiency of patient-centered care and improve patient outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy
  • Empirical Research
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Preference*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Patient-Centered Care*
  • Personal Autonomy*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Quality of Life
  • Taiwan
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Trust