Labels: Patients or Consumers?


This week the team at #HCLDR held their weekly chat. The topic of the chat was Names and Labels In Healthcare. (blog here)

I was unable to join the chat, but I did read the transcript, which I encourage all of you to read too. (transcript here)

The first question was: “Patients vs Consumers? Which are we? Which should we be?”

As you can imagine, the responses from the participants were varied.

Some colleagues said that people are patients. Others commented that they see themselves as consumers. Yet another group that see themselves as both patients and consumers depending on where they are in the cycle of life.

I have been thinking about this question and finally came to my own set of truths.

First, I believe that it is part of our nature to group items into categories and assign labels. We have been taught and encouraged to continue this practice since we were infants. Blocks, colors, numbers, animals, people, food. We like to group, categorize, and add a label.

I firmly believe that as a by product of the Industrial Revolution labels have gained a different meaning. Labels have moved from helping us to categorize and group items to indicating that something has been manufactured and is assigned an equivalent value and price.

Marketers needed a label for people that buy products, so they came up with consumers. (I am over simplifying) Who buys what, when, with what kind of specifications? How can we grow our margins, share of wallet, and sell more product? (again I am over simplifying)

As we continue to Industrialize Healthcare and more hospitals merge and consolidate in the US and Europe there continues to be a fight over dollars. In the battle for dollars, hospital marketing departments begin to view their patients as consumers.

This is the problem I have with labeling patients as consumers.

It scales mediocrity.

It removes the “ME” from medicine. (#MeInMedicine)

It eliminates the relationship between physicians and patients.

It devalues the importance of the connection between patients and physicians. (#connection)

It tries to place a dollar amount on the #MyIdealPtExp

I agree that outside of healthcare I am a consumer. I agree that when I get sick and it is something emergent I am a patient.

Whether I am a consumer or a patient, or the time between both of those labels, I am always human.

That’s the most meaningful label in healthcare.

Let’s put the humanity back in healthcare.

One human at a time.

What label do you prefer and why? Tweet your response with #MyIdealPtExp

As always, you can feel free to contact me at: CANCERGEEK@GMAIL.COM or follow me on twitter @cancergeek



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