Trying to define the role of the patient in healthcare should seem like a pretty easy thing to do, shouldn't it? But it appears the more you try and assign the patient’s function, the more complex it becomes. Are they consumers? Is it to their benefit to be labeled as such? Well, they’re not clients as those seen by lawyers, architects, or contractors—fields that need shared decision-making. But there should be shared decision-making for patients.

A blog written by Augusta Meill and Gianna Ericson, “The Trouble with Treating Patients as Consumers,” had some interesting comments that made me review how I see myself as a patient.  I "got" what the authors were saying but I still disagreed--only slightly. Patients are more informed about their health these days; they want better services, better care, and better environments and surroundings.

On The Health Care Blog, Rob Lamberts, MD, appears to support the concept of the patient, in essence, being a consumer. For physicians who have their own practices it seems it comes with the territory. The same as in design, construction, or engineering.

I'm not a healthcare professional, I will defer to those who have the vast knowledge. However, as the years have flown by it's become glaringly obvious to me that I HAVE to become more informed about my health. The last doctor’s visit left me stewing silently long after the doctor had already flown in and out of the cold exam room. My fault for not demanding more of her time to ask questions that were vitally important to other decisions I was going to have to make.  You see, she told me that someone had fainted in the next room and there was chaos. Who am I to be demanding under such circumstances?

It doesn’t matter if the patient is ill-informed or over-exposed to information; their right to proper care remains the same and no matter what label that may end up being affixed to them, their health remains of paramount importance. With healthcare reform still in the pipelines, it seems providers are hearing the whispers (or maybe they’re loud gongs) of change.

In my opinion, the A/E/C industry has responded to this quite well, probably because they are used to the type of relationship where the client MUST be heard, regardless of what kind of information they possess. Forming positive bonds with the client, understanding that sometimes impossible demands will be made, and budgets will be stretched will make for smoother relationship. At the end of the day no matter how many middle men there might be from the architect to the facility management, there will be a patient, a consumer, a member, requiring healthcare and deserving of the best.