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.

A Sea Change

by Joanna Smith on Jun 9, 2010

Reported today in the California Healthcare Foundation’s iHealth Beat: “Three hospitals, 100 primary care physicians and 25,000 patients will participate in a yearlong pilot project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Pioneer Portfolio to evaluate the impact of giving patients online access to doctors’ encounter notes.” As found in:HealthLeaders Media.
What a change! From the years where the patient had no access to medical records (because they were considered the property of the providers, both in the hospital and in a clinic) to today: where patients have access to Doctor’s encounter notes! An astonishing change in the view of what constitutes appropriate access to one’s own medical information. It’s an exciting study and it will be interesting to see if having access leads to better health and better healthcare!