I”m Not a Patient: I’m a Consumer!

by Joanna Smith on Jun 22, 2010

I almost entitled this “Please Don’t Call Me a Patient” until I realized this is not something we ask politely for anymore:  this is the new world of the empowered consumer as a self’-made advocate!

In the “old world” of medicine, people seeking care were patients.  The origin of “patients” is from the Latin for  “to suffer or endure”.  Is that a relevant description for today?  Only partially.  Yes, people who are ill do suffer and endure, but they are also taking steps to learn about their options, talk with others in a similar situation and research centers of excellence and specialists.  They approach their providers with this information, and are collegial in their approach to their care:  they don’t ask a healthcare provider to tell them what to do:  they discuss options, risks and benefits and outcome data and then decide with their provider what options to take.  This is a very different way to approach healthcare.

So language needs to follow the shift:  rather than a “patient”, which conveys a static, “waiting-for-someone-to-tell-me-what-to-do” position, I think the title now is “consumer”. People look at healthcare as a product they can research and purchase.  These consumers have shifted away from the old model to the empowered healthcare model.  Patients no more, they are driving some of the most significant changes in healthcare delivery today.