Patients are patients, semantically speaking

Last week Paul Krugman wrote “Patients Are Not Consumers,” his reasoning is here.

I don’t like to refer to patients as consumers, either. My reasoning is much more convoluted and I’m not entirely sure of the proper term. Consumer is such a … dirty word. (Which is such a pretentious thought.) And consuming healthcare resources is so … sensitive. 

People is too broad and desensitized. Guests is too Disneyish. Visitors are people who say hello to those in hospital beds. Customer suggests material transactions. Modifiers ([insert modifier here] patient) become a mouthful. “Sweeties”, “Honeys”, and “Babys” are much too inappropriate. 

Think about this–healthcare has already reserved a very special term for the customer/consumer/guest: patient. What’s so wrong with patient? Negative connotation? We’ve assigned it that.

And we can certainly unassign it, too. Until a better argument comes along (if it does…), I’m sticking with patient. They’re special.

Health is meant to be a proaction

The other day I tweeted healthcare is a reaction; my intended connotation was that this is bad. But I’ve been thinking.

Of course it is a reaction. We want it to be so. We need it to be so. Have a health problem? Get it cared for. 

The fact that healthcare is a reaction is not the problem. The problem, truly, is that health is a reaction. A subtle, but important, difference.

Health is a reaction.

This is the fundamental issue facing healthcare delivery (especially as we enter the era of accountable care). How do provider organizations transition from healthcare to health?

Good question.

It is obligatory to note the environmental factors stacked against this thought: reimbursement models, years of medical practice, disinterested public, billions of infrastructure dollars, and as always (especially in healthcare) the status quo, among others.

The transition is possible. While some of these decisions are being made because “it’s the right thing to do,” widespread transition will not occur without proper economic incentives. Healthcare will always be necessary–probably in ways consistent with its existence today.

But health is meant to be a proaction. There is a burgeoning market for health creation assistance. What can be good for patients can be good for organizations, too.