Clients vs Patients

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about where healthcare is going.  One of the things that is really disturbing to me is the use of the term “clients” in place of “patients”.  This may seem like a little thing at first, but I believe that it has some much deeper issues and repercussions.

A Client is defined by as :

1. a person or group that uses the professional advice or services of a lawyer, accountant, advertising agency, architect, etc.
2. a person who is receiving the benefits, services, etc., of a social welfare agency, a government bureau, etc.
3. a customer.

 A Patient is defined as:

1. a person who is under medical care or treatment.
2. a person or thing that undergoes some action.
3. Archaic. a sufferer or victim.

Now, I see that we don’t necessarily want our patients to suffer or feel like victims, but the truth is that some things that happen during medical treatment hurt.  When we start calling patients clients this brings forth the images of chocolates on the pillow, not enemas.

When someone is sick and we need to get them better, sometimes it is necessary to do things to them that are uncomfortable, that aren’t fun and that might not make them happy.  But if they get to get better and go home then those things were worth it.  In the moment they might not feel that way, but I’m pretty sure most everyone is happy to leave the hospital.

My fear is that patients are going to start thinking that they should have no pain whatsoever, and nothing uncomfortable should be done, and they should order exactly what they want for breakfast and why not have a smoke in the room.  We are not here to coddle you, we are here to get you better and get you home.  Too many patients feel like they don’t have a stake in their own recovery, like they shouldn’t have to do any work, and by calling them a client you reinforce that idea.

I also like the restaurant/menu analogy.  If you are at a restaurant you can only order what is on the menu, you can’t go in and hope that they’ll get you something different.  If you are sick and come to the hospital, but you don’t want to be treated, then why did you even show up?

I do firmly believe in a patients right to informed consent and to truly understand what is going on with them, what drugs are being prescribed and why, and what procedures are being done and what they hope to learn.  But I don’t think that same patient should be coddled and hand held, the entire time.  Patients need to have responsibility for their own recovery.


Published in: on October 29, 2008 at 8:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

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