Should Patients Be Treated Like Customers?


patient consumers

Often when discussing the patient experience the discussion turns to the ideals of customer service, or treating the patient like a customer.

But as the Sucessful Workplace blog points out, “the real customer of healthcare” is the one paying the bills, which is often the employer, not the patient.This disconnect between the employer-customer and the patient-consumer gives us a less than ideal system to make improvements. We increasingly see a trend for payers wanting patient experience measures along with outcome measures to ensure that they are getting value for their spend.

Also, Harvard Business Review wrote last week about how treating patients like consumers can backfire. Too much information at once and complex decisions can lead to confusion. The authors present three case examples and argue there are three main reasons why this occurs:

  1. Patients don’t want to be there. – They need to be engaged with early and often and incentivized to participate.
  2. Patients aren’t equipped to be there. – A better prepared patient will result in better outcomes.
  3. Patients aren’t in it alone. – We need to involve a patient’s entire circle of care in the process.

"The reflex to put patients in the driver’s seat can result in poorly designed delivery systems that don’t necessarily improve care or reduce costs," they wrote. Without a dashboard, steering wheel or brakes, patients really don’t have any control of their ride.

We designed the Wellbe.me Patient Guidance System to simplify the experience and give patients some control – providing them convenient, 24-hour access to relevant information and resources just as they need it so that they can prepare and proceed through their care episode with confidence. Learn more about our Guided Treatment plans for orthopedics.


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