Call Me Patient, Not Consumer (or why trust is key for Health 2.0 to continue to make progress)

Last year, I had the honor to present TuDiabetes at Health2.0 2008 in San Francisco. The conference dealt with empowering patients through support, tools and information to help them better manage their health.

You would imagine that technologies and platforms for patient empowerment would have patients at the center. And they do to a great degree, except for the fact that patients were routinely referred to as consumers, not as patients, throughout the conference. Most of the people I pointed this out to didn’t notice it. Some didn’t think it was an issue.

Read the rest of this guest post I wrote in DiabetesDaily:

In my opinion, until they position their services/products from the point of view of service to patient and not to shareholder these companies and products will fail. The first company that puts the patients first will become the leader.

Really though, aren’t you both?

From a marketing perspective, you have demands for diverse types of health care services and supplies, as we all do, which makes us consumers. If you buy OTC meds or bandage supplies at Walgreen’s, I wouldn’t consider you to be a “Patient” of Walgreen’s. If you see the pharmacist at Walgreen’s every month to talk about your medications, then you might be a patient, but that depends…

The identity or role of the patient can’t develop without a provider; the word describes a part of an important dialectic process between two people that involves mutual understanding, formal interaction and exchange of information.

As a Graduate Nurse Practitioner, a patient is usually a person I’ve never seen before or whom I know little about. Patient is also a word that would use in a general sense (e.g. I have 3 patients waiting). It’s the same way I use the word “client” in my personal training business. But, once I know a patient or a client, those labels fall away because eventually I want to be on a first name basis with the people I interact with most frequently.

Until every person in this country is insured and has a “Medical Home” people will continue to be thought of by economists as consumers.

Thanks for the provocative post!

David A. Boley II, RN, MS

I don’t think Manny is suggesting that we are not consumers of medical products and services. I think he is suggesting that using the word “consumer” somehow dehumanizes the interactions. If the vendors keep in mind that their “consumers” are human beings dealing with a chronic degenerative disease then the products and services will be designed to make the experience of using them less onerous.

Apple has a 6% market share of the personal computer market yet has a market cap equal to that of HP and 4 times that of Dell. Why? I think it is because they build products and services designed foremost for providing the best value to the “consumer”. They focus on all the little details that make the user experience exceptional. And at the end of the day, their profits and margins are better than the remaining 90% of the personal computer manufacturers.

People can tell when they are being screwed, no matter how much marketing spin you put on it. Just go ask Microsoft and GM.