Med One Blog

Consumer or Patient

TV Shopping at electronics store

By Ibby Smith Stofer

Within the healthcare community there is much debate on the transition between the two terms consumer and patient.

The exact differences may be muddled and usually are not consistently understood by either the provider or the consumer/patient.

Historically it is said that we were patients and that we played a passive role in our healthcare. We did whatever the physician asked of us. We had little concern over the costs of care, tests, or referrals for more advanced testing or care. Our insurance would cover the costs and so we were seen as indifferent to these aspects of our healthcare.

Physicians, nurses, and other caregivers have always considered those they care for as the patient. They have the knowledge to guide us through the right steps toward wellness. The language of their training is centered on patient care.

With the transitions under our current Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 most individuals have seen increased out of pocket and costs for insurance coverage. Based on this alone many believe we are no longer patients, we are now consumers.

Dr patient looking on laptop

Add to that the transparency available via the Internet and Social Media and many believe we are shopping for healthcare the way we would electronic devices or other commonly considered consumer products or services. We are reviewing sites that rate hospitals, physicians, and the like. We are researching both symptoms and diseases in advance of seeing a physician, and we have an expectation that they will discuss our situation and findings with us. Pharmaceutical companies inundate us with ads in all the media and expect the “patient” to ask their doctor if the product is right for them.

Do these things make us consumers of healthcare? Or are we as patients simply becoming a more informed ill person who wants to assume more responsibility in the path to wellness?

Each of us must decide if we see ourselves as consumers or continue to be patients with trust in the care of others but doing so with more knowledge and understanding. Whatever your name for yourself is, I think that we are doing the right thing to try and understand both preventative and treatment options. Healthcare is a personal responsibility and not a mandated, one so I chose to be an active patient. How about you?