• Lygeia Ricciardi

Consumer? Patient? Or Person?

A word cloud of responses to our LinkedIn discussion. Size of word reflects frequency of use.

In anticipation of our virtual session tomorrow (originally planned for HIMSS), Emily Kagan from Northwell Health and I moderated a discussion on the HIMSS LinkedIn group asking what term readers use to refer to someone who receives healthcare services. A lively discussion with more than 90 responses ensued.

While “consumer,” “patient,” and “person” were the most popular terms, the reasons for using them varied. One popular theme was that the answer depends largely on context. Another fervently expressed idea was that regardless of terminology, patients (or whatever you choose to call them) must be treated with dignity, respect, and a recognition for their increasing power in the healthcare equation.

What do YOU think?

A few of the more eloquent or provocative responses are quoted here, (anonymously, since contributors didn’t explicitly agree to have what they said repeated outside of the group, and we’re all for respecting privacy and transparency!). If you want us to attribute your quote, reach out to us at

  • “Consumer, if you want to make money. Patient if you see the only the treatment. Person if you think of prevention and treatment in a more universal way.”

  • “I am a person who, when I go for my scans and bloodwork, is sadly reminded that I am also a patient, and will be for life because of a stage IV cancer diagnosis. Stage IV never “goes away” “is cured” or “gets better.” When I have to pay for medications and services not covered by insurance (and there are many), I am an informed consumer. When I combine the two to make choices of where/how I receive care, I am a customer and a client, and I expect a best-in-class experience.”

  • “Patient has been traditionally a more powerful term. There is a patient-physician relationship that is venerated above other relationships, where a provider has the entire health and wellness of patient in mind, as opposed to satisfying a consumer’s chief concern or request.”

  • “As someone with a lifetime of heart issues: I am a person with big dreams and goals. I cycle in and out of being a patient when in the healthcare ecosystem. I feel as a patient, things are done to me. Sometimes when I am unconscious and do not have a voice. As a person, I am a consumer. As a consumer, I have choice, but with choice comes responsibility. Consumers educated on wellness can make better choices that impact when and how much healthcare may be avoided or needed.”

  • “Healthcare is slowly embracing the concept of the patient as a consumer. And with this shift, the need to treat them as an individual while making the consumption of services convenient for them is critical to gain their trust and loyalty. Convenience for the patient is quite different than convenience through the provider's lens.”

  • “We are all just people struggling with something, and we all will be. Some of us have been trained to relieve the suffering and extend the meaningful life of other people. We don’t need labels to do so. We need competence and compassion and to remember that no one is spared.”

  • “We should get away from terms like consumer because it implies purchases from a profit-driven system and I think healthcare should get away from being revenue biased and shift towards a patient-centric system.”

  • “A PERSON!”

  • “Fortunate!”

  • “I’m amazed at the passion in this thread. So much energy for nomenclature. Could it be that the word speaks to our identity and provokes our sense of participation or the lack thereof? I find it fascinating.”

  • “A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. It doesn’t matter. Treat them all with respect and dignity. They are the foundation of any business. Without them, there is no business.”

Register for our virtual session, Designing the Consumer Experience, as we dive into the psychology, research, and insights that are most relevant to engaging today’s consumer.