The benefits of having person-centered continence care

We can create a continence care that is better adapted for each individual by seeing patients as experts and equals to medical professionals. According to Helle Wijk, Senior Lecturer and Deputy Head of University of Gothenburg Centre for Person-Centred Care in Sweden, this will demand a shift of mind and power relations in the healthcare sector.

– Person-centered care is not a model or a quick fix, it is rather an approach to one’s fellow humans. It is about seeing the patient as a person with a life story, rather than a collection of symptoms and diagnoses. Of course, the patient has always been at the center of healthcare, but this approach is about seeing the patient as an equal, says Helle Wijk.

There are a few principles to person-centered care. The first is listening to how the patient is experiencing his or her situation and care needs. The second is to invite the patient, and in some cases the patient’s family, to partner in planning for a healthcare in which the patient has just as big a say as the physician.

Seeing the patient as an individual with a life story can lead to more creative solutions.

– In one case, an older man experienced incontinence during the night. The nursing home staff learned that the man had worked as a farmer his whole life just by talking to his relatives. His leakages would occur around five o’clock in the morning when he was used to waking up. By adapting the schedule, the incontinence incidents could be prevented.

A key to implementing a person-centered care is to require and prioritize patient involvement in policies and guidelines.

A deeper knowledge of patient’s incontinence condition can lead to

reduction of leakage

59 hours
efficiency gain in hours per year per patient

56 kg
less post use containment product waste per year per patient45

– It takes time to listen to a patient’s stories, but studies show that it saves time in the end and leads to better care, says Helle Wijk.

Listening to patients, healthcare professionals and other voices in continence care is a foundation for Essity’s innovation and product development process.

– The traditional innovation model is often focused on solving problems, without an actual understanding of the individual’s pain points and the causes behind them. Every pain point can be broken down to a root cause; and when you find the root causes, you can begin to grasp the true essence of the matter, says Joshua Carney, Technical Innovation Manager at Essity.

It is often a long and thorough process to truly understand the needs of patients and their caregivers. It requires lots of interviewing, collecting user studies and shadowing, until you can start addressing the identified root causes and come up with new concepts.

One research endeavor resulted in a digital tool to assess the voiding patterns among patients with incontinence. Digital solutions can track when leakages occur in order to understand a patient’s individual needs. This device enables people to optimize their toilet routines and select appropriate products for usage. Thereby it promotes a better health outcome among patients, creates time efficiency for nursing home staff, and reduces waste from used containment products.

Woman helping older woman (photo)

– One case where the digital solutions were beneficial, was an older woman who suffered from fatigue due to disturbed sleep and as a consequence lack of appetite and energy. During the night she was woken up to either go to the toilet or to change containment product, which made it difficult for her to go back to sleep. The next day she was tired again, with no appetite and went to bed early. The digital solutions enabled the nursing staff to better understand her needs and change the hygiene routines so they did not disturb her sleep, which significantly improved her well-being. A simple change in her hygiene routines meant significantly improved quality of life, says Joshua Carney.

Hence digital solutions can be a complement to the patient life stories. Much can also be gained by combining different digital solutions and integrating the results.

– Today different players are working on different areas of care, but seldom work together. When integrating different aspects of the care, we can improve our understanding and find better solutions. For instance you could merge the information on medical intake with incontinence data to discover patterns. This will enable the staff to focus on what matters most: caring for the patient, says Joshua Carney.