Freakonomics reports on a working paper titled “Demanding Customers: Consumerist Patients and Quality of Care” by Hai Fang, Nolan H. Miller, John A. Rizzo, and Richard J. Zeckhauser by asking:
But surely it’s in everyone’s best interest for patients to stay informed, right? For patients to do their own research, to ask lots of questions — especially of their own doctors — and so forth, right? Right?
From the paper:
Consumerism arises when patients acquire and use medical information from sources apart from their physicians, such as the Internet and direct-to-patient advertising. Consumerism has been hailed as a means of improving quality. This need not be the result. Consumerist patients place additional demands on their doctors’ time, thus imposing a negative externality on other patients.
Hmm. I don’t see the informed patient caring much about additional demands on doctors’ time. I also don’t see patients asking fewer questions in order to speed more people through the system. The reality of health care today is that it is a partnership. It may not be the most efficient model, but it is one with which many are growing more comfortable.