Magazine article Medical Economics

Don't Forget: You're Dealing with a Consumer

Magazine article Medical Economics

Don't Forget: You're Dealing with a Consumer

Article excerpt

Our survey turned up plenty of signs that your patients are familiar with medicine's delivery mechanisms and aware of their personal role in purchasing health care. In short, they've become educated consumers.

A simple statement like this from a California woman -- "We chose a plan the doctors we like participate in"-- illustrates not just a purchasing decision but also a grasp of the concept of plan rosters that few patients had 10 years ago.

In fact, several patients made comments that had a distinct mid-1990s ring. For example, a decade ago not many patients would have understood things well enough to say, "He's not a plan doctor, so I pay more." And back in 1985, how many patients would have used such terms as "care provider" or been cost-conscious enough to question their doctors about "needed tests only"?

This Ohio woman's comment indicates that she's read her health plan's sales brochure: "He treats us not as patients, but as partners in our own health care," she recited. A young woman from South Carolina said, "My doctor is a resident, and his case load is much higher than it should be." Since when do patients have opinions on case loads?

More than just being familiar with the lingo, today's consumerist patient often wants a hand in his own care. A 42-year-old Pennsylvania computer technician, clearly among the new breed of patient, related this experience: "I am college-educated, and I own a few medical books. When I had a sore throat, I read up on sore throats before my visit. I wanted to talk intelligently with my doctor."

Unfortunately, this patient added, his doctor wanted none of it. …

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