My Goals Are Not Their Goals: Barriers and Facilitators to Delivery of Patient-Centered Care for Patients with Multimorbidity

J Gen Intern Med. 2022 Dec;37(16):4189-4196. doi: 10.1007/s11606-022-07533-1. Epub 2022 May 23.


Background: Patient-centered care reflecting patient preferences and needs is integral to high-quality care. Individualized care is important for psychosocially complex or high-risk patients with multiple chronic conditions (i.e., multimorbidity), given greater potential risks of interventions and reduced benefits. These patients are increasingly prevalent in primary care. Few studies have examined provision of patient-centered care from the clinician perspective, particularly from primary care physicians serving in integrated, patient-centered medical home settings within the US Veterans Health Administration.

Objective: We sought to clarify facilitators and barriers perceived by primary care physicians in the Veterans Health Administration to delivering patient-centered care for high-risk or complex patients with multimorbidity.

Design: We conducted semi-structured telephone interviews from April to July 2020 among physicians across 20 clinical sites. Findings were analyzed with deductive content analysis based on conceptual models of patient-centeredness and hierarchical factors affecting care delivery.

Participants: Of 23 physicians interviewed, most were female (n = 14/23, 61%), serving in hospital-affiliated outpatient clinics (n = 14/23, 61%). Participants had a mean of 21 (SD = 11.3) years of experience.

Key results: Facilitators included the following: effective physician-patient communication to individualize care, prioritize among multiple needs, and elicit goals to improve patient engagement; access to care, enabled by interdisciplinary teams, and dictating personalized care planning; effortful but worthwhile care coordination and continuity; meeting complex needs through effective teamwork; and integrating medical and non-medical care aspects in recognition of patients' psychosocial contexts. Barriers included the following: intra- and interpersonal (e.g., perceived patient reluctance to engage in care); organizational (e.g., limited encounter time); and community or policy impediments (e.g., state decisional capacity laws) to patient-centered care.

Conclusions: Physicians perceived individual physician-patient interactions were the greatest facilitators or barriers to patient-centered care. Efforts to increase primary care patient-centeredness for complex or high-risk patients with multimorbidity could focus on targeting physician-patient communication and reducing interpersonal conflict.

Keywords: clinical decision-making; health priorities; multimorbidity; patient-centered care; qualitative research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multimorbidity*
  • Patient-Centered Care
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Health Care