Let’s banish the term ‘patient’ from the health care lexicon


Almost each trade has modified the time period for the individuals they serve. We at the moment are passengers, company, members, clients, and extra. The large exception? Well being care. To these within the subject, whether or not it’s clinicians or researchers or pharmaceutical entrepreneurs, we’re all “sufferers” — even after we really feel tremendous and aren’t in a hospital or physician’s workplace.

It’s time to cease categorizing individuals this manner, which places them in submissive and dehumanizing roles.

Think about what would occur if clinicians referred to as the individuals they deal with “shoppers” or “activated shoppers” or “companions.” With that mindset, they transfer away from implying what they’ll do to or for them, and as an alternative describe what they’ll do with them as proactive companions.


These new phrases aren’t simply extra respectful. They’re extra in contact with the occasions. At the moment’s activated shoppers are able to take extra accountability for his or her well being care.

In a well being care client survey performed by my colleagues at Deloitte in April and Might of 2020, simply weeks into the Covid-19 shutdowns within the U.S., 72% of respondents famous that they perceive their well being and well-being wants and actively work with their docs to set targets that work for them. And greater than 50% mentioned they’re snug telling their docs in the event that they disagree with them.


Well being is an important useful resource and most of the people wish to take cost of it.

With well being care shoppers within the driver’s seat, they change into the captains of their very own future by working with a well being care crew they belief — and may talk with — as companions of their well being journeys. They maintain themselves accountable for his or her selections, and so they advance previous at this time’s episodic interactions with well being care to steady connectivity, reaching out to their care groups at any time when and nevertheless they want.

This empowered method will help people remodel their focus from illness to wellness.

After I opened my first major care workplace in Tallahassee, Fla., my observe grew shortly. Recent out of residency, I used to be youthful than a lot of the adults looking for my care. To bridge any age gaps, I created a dialogue with them. I needed to acknowledge my experience about well being care whereas additionally respecting their knowledge about their very own well being, our bodies, and desires. I believed that having that type of dialog may very well be essentially the most vital means that well being care suppliers set expectations for the client-care crew relationship.

I sat down with every new shopper and mentioned, “Your ship is your physique, and you’re the captain of the ship. Your job is to maintain your ship in the absolute best situation to take you thru your life’s voyage. Your physique is the one one you’ll get. You will have the chance to get a tune up, or swap a component, however you don’t get a complete new physique. This dialog is to see if I qualify to be your first mate or adviser.”

I attempted to shortly set up the roles we might every play on this relationship. I might inform shoppers it’s my position to advise them, current a related care plan, prescribe essentially the most acceptable drugs and testing, counsel specialists when wanted, and advocate the upkeep that features preventive care and way of life adjustments. Their job is to determine whether or not or to not implement my recommendations.

The response? “You aren’t from round right here, are you?”

Just a few individuals by no means returned. However those that stayed realized about their well being in addition to their illnesses. We — the shoppers, their assist networks of household and associates, and the scientific crew that included a number of colleagues and me — labored collectively so shoppers may take extra management and accountability for his or her well being.

Inside 9 months, our each day schedule was full and we couldn’t tackle new sufferers. Regardless of having double the variety of shoppers of different major care practices within the area, ours had higher-than-average satisfaction scores. I used to be perceived as spending eight extra minutes with shoppers than my colleagues, although the fact was that I spent much less time.

How was that doable? It was the way in which my employees and I managed our workflow, the construction of visits, and the processes we put in place so everybody may work on the prime of their licenses. This left me further time to give attention to particular person shopper interactions and take heed to their considerations.

Our shoppers owned their care plans and, as members of the crew, helped measure outcomes and urged changes alongside the way in which. That’s totally different from the way in which issues work in most scientific environments, the place a number of particular person plans may be created by totally different physicians, typically with out enter from the person or their household.

Many, although not all, of our shoppers achieved vital outcomes resembling managing blood sugar and blood stress, shedding weight, and turning into extra lively due to the atmosphere and tradition we created.

It was thrilling for me and my colleagues to observe shoppers be taught and incorporate real-time care plans that not solely slowed illness however, for individuals who modified their life, even reversed it. The individuals we most empowered ended up visiting us the least as a result of they improved and higher managed their well being — appropriately.

Despite the fact that I delivered my first client-centric care greater than 20 years in the past, the thought of focusing care on the individual — at this time it’s typically referred to as patient-centric care — continues to be in its infancy. From a humanizing well being care perspective, prioritizing this shift creates rewards for all stakeholders, resembling extra satisfying experiences with the well being care system, higher outcomes, extra effectivity within the system, higher entry to care, and a extra sustainable ecosystem.

I’ve seen firsthand the benefits that may emerge from this shift and imagine it’s an important piece for humanizing well being care. By embracing a client-centric mannequin, the varied gamers inside the trade will be capable of restore the human connection in well being care; empower shoppers to take cost of their well being, illness, way of life, and care choices; and inject compassion and empathy into the science of drugs.

To start out this journey, it’s mandatory to think about individuals as “shoppers” slightly than “sufferers,” a phrase I’m doing my finest to banish from my vocabulary.

Summer time Knight is a firefighter/paramedic turned doctor who has practiced emergency, pressing care, and household medication; a managing director within the life sciences and well being care consulting observe at Deloitte; and creator of “Humanizing Healthcare: Hardwiring Humanity into the Way forward for Well being” (McGraw Hill, April 2021).


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