Guest blogger Cristin Lind is an e-caregiver and e-patient; her personal blog is called Durga’s Toolbox.

When trying to find a definition for what real patient- or family-centered care looks like, I can easily to get caught up in inspirational jargon. But a recent visit for my biannual mammogram (fun!) helped me give a very specific answer to the question, “What’s the difference between system-centered and patient-centered care?”

When I called to book my mammogram appointment, I was given an appointment time: 8:40 am. The person booking my appointment then told me that I needed to go to registration at 8:30 am before my appointment. I could not begin the mammogram without registering first.

As I held my pen hovering over my calendar to write down my appointment, I wondered: should I write down 8:40, my appointment time (and the time that the provider or clinic would be ready to see me), or 8:30, the time I should actually be there? This unreconciled tension reveals a leaning toward system-centeredness or practice-centeredness. A patient-centered system would have told me that my appointment was for 8:30 in registration, followed by a mammogram in radiology.

If an office visit requires critical paperwork or self-assessments to be completed in order to make the visit , that activity should be considered part of the visit. It’s that simple!

Donate