Medical Consumerism by Definition

A question popped up this morning in reaction to my column in today’s Post Standard. The column is short — you can read it here: Five Words Can Make All the Difference

The question regards Medical Consumerism — a label that marries the concepts of medical care and the idea of patient as consumer. Turns out there are a handful of definitions for Medical Consumerism, and those definitions seem dependent on the point of view of the person defining it, such as:

Physicians and other providers seem to take the low road (in my not-so-humble opinion), as in a paper published by Yale Medical School that discusses blame and fraud as the underpinnings for such a movement as Medical Consumerism.

And then there are discussions of “valued consumers,” trust and vulnerability having to do with profit making or not-for-profit healthcare, as found in this article from Health Services Research.

In terms of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) I find references to MC as part of a movement toward patients choosing doctors who will discuss remedies from both mainstream and alternatives. This seems the most balanced one to me.

But, as of today, February 20, 2007, I’m sticking my stake in the ground with my own definition:

Medical Consumerism is the concept of patients taking responsibility for their own medical care decisions, using background information acquired by combining self-assessment, physician and/or provider input, background research, interviews with other influencers, and cost of care.

Why is it important to define medical consumerism? Because right now there is a stand-off in this country, at least by my observation. That stand off is the very negative provider-oriented view of “how dare they tell me how to do my job?” with the very positive “I’m the patient, and it’s my responsibility to understand what’s wrong with me and work with the professionals to make the best choices for myself.”

Any providers out there? Can you buy in? Can we begin to take the negativity out, and begin to look at the positives that can result?

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2 comments

1 ping

  1. Yes, there seems to be a stand-off indeed.

    I believe more people are now taking larger initive with the opinions, the suggestions and the care they receive. This, however is a good thing for the people, I think threatens the doctors ego and they go on the defensive “How dare they tell me how to do my job.” type attitude.

    I enjoyed the post.

  2. Just,

    Yes — I agree. Defensiveness isn’t good for anyone — not the provider, and certainly not the patient.

    It’s really a question of mutual respect. Before now, too often the patient has respected the doctor (whether or not the doctor deserved it) and too often, the doctor didn’t respect the patient.

    Now the pendulum is swinging in the other direction. But the balance of respect won’t really happen until it’s somewhere in the middle — making it mutual.

    Thanks for posting, Just.

  1. […] Jul 27th, 2007 by Trisha Torrey Part of my work is what I call health or medical “consumerism” — recognizing, talking about, and creating guidelines for patients as they regard cost of their healthcare.  From nuances in purchasing health insurance, to understanding how those dollars get allocated, to ideas for saving money and even appealing health insurance payment rejections — that’s what I call health or medical consumerism.  I’ve defined it in a previous blog post. […]

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