Patient Experience: Emerging Cultural Touchstone
Airplane travel necessitates conversations with strangers. Rubbing shoulders and sharing cocktail peanuts demands a modicum of friendliness.
“What do you do?”
Revealing yourself as a healthcare professional typically leads to stories. The time they went to the Emergency Department. Their parents’ doctor visits. Their friend’s recent childbirth. Stories inevitably emerge.
These stories reveal a strange nature of a dichotomy in healthcare leadership – an artificial distinction between patient and consumer. Patients aren’t consumers – say consultants in the Harvard Business Review and Paul Krugman in the New York Times. Patients as consumers empowers and engages them – say other consultants from Booz Allen Hamilton and the ongoing WWDD theory (“What Would Disney Do?”).
When people tell stories, we see the whole picture. We bear multiple roles in life – family roles (e.g., father, husband, son), professional roles (e.g., manager, employee, leader, follower) and societal roles (e.g., church member, league member, friend). We are called to be different things at different times – frequently multiple roles at once. Being a patient or consumer are similarly roles which we bear simultaneously in our life journey.
These roles only seem dichotomous because the medical establishment has defined a “good” patient as compliant. One that follows orders, listens closely, remembers perfectly, and ultimately accepts the provider’s treatment plan. This opposes the “consumer” role – popularly defined as possessing ultimate freedom and choice within their budgetary means. Consumer is associated with fulfillment of desire – and no one desires to be sick.
Consumer vs. Patient – the labels are changing as not only our healthcare system undergoes massive change but healthcare’s place in society shifts. Moving from episodic fee-for-service care to population health management has implications for our daily lives – society wants everyone engaged to monitor and manage our own health on a daily basis.
This “patient engagement” has implications beyond peoples’ own lives. The grand societal shift underway is the growing exposure, familiarization and consumerization of a previously opaque and confusing healthcare world. Consider a few of these recent emerging events: