Are healthcare consumers and patients the same thing? Many of us use these terms interchangeably, but should we?

I recently came back from a big conference for healthcare executives, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders. At the event, I was intrigued by the perspective of the keynote speaker, Dr. Jordan Shlain. In his presentation, Dr. Shlain illuminated a subject of particular relevant to our work as healthcare marketers: the difference between a consumer and a patient.

Throughout the conference, and in the current trend, healthcare marketers use the words patient and consumer interchangeably. This trend resulted from the improvement in technology and increasing expectation from patients for transparency and excellence. As those expectations rise, health organizations reacted by building consumer-centric services and emphasizing patient satisfaction.

Dr. Shlain argued that words are important in healthcare. When we conflate the words patients and consumers, we lose the complexity of the person involved. As a result, our messages and our services lose effectiveness.

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