Last week, I was annoyed by a few newspaper articles in which those persons using health care services were called “consumers”.
I’ve had enough of that.
I want the people using health care services to be called “patients” again.
What is a “consumer”?
My Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines “consumer” as “a person who purchases goods or services for personal use”.
Many of the people who see doctors or go to hospitals are not there by choice. They are there because they have no choice but to have access to the “goods or services” of medical treatment. The word “consumer” does not describe their role.
More importantly, I want patients to know that, in so far as “consumer” implies a relationship, I am not someone “selling” or even offering “goods or services”.
The treatment of a medical condition unfortunately implies that a person’s health is compromised. The remedy is not usually straightforward, not usually just an exchange between someone offering a service and a “consumer” of a “good” or “service”. This kind of transaction implies that there is a choice about the “good” or “service”. To the extent that this is the case, it’s never a good choice.
So I’d like to have the language we use about health care, the language that we use about the person entering my office, to remind them and me that the “goods or services” I am offering are provided with a concern for their welfare that goes far beyond the goals of any shopkeeper or tradesperson. I want language to remind them and me that they are in my office, in a hospital to “receive care”.
I want everyone to recognize that I strive to go beyond a business transaction in what I do.
I want those people who enter my office, distressed and unwell, to be called “patients”.