Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Patients Are Partners, Not Consumers

The author enjoying time with her beautiful family. Photo credit to the author, and used with permission.


My hope is that physicians, patients, and families, consider each other as partners, with mutual respect, trust, compassion, understanding, and empathy guiding and facilitating interactions and relationships.

Recently, I wrote a narrative essay on consumerism in healthcare that was published in the 2019 March issue of Health Affairs. “My Child is Sick; Don’t Call Her A Consumer,” shares our family’s journey with our eldest daughter, Ayah, and her complex medical conditions. As a patient family engagement consultant, I also included my perspective on the push towards consumerism in healthcare and my concerns with this movement based on my work in healthcare.


I believe that physicians and all members of the care team, including patients and families, would never view their relationship in the same way as any other consumer experience. My hope is that we consider one another as partners, with mutual respect, trust, compassion, understanding, and empathy guiding and facilitating our interactions and relationships. Based on my reflections, I have compiled this top five list of reasons why I hope my daughter’s physicians will never think of us as a consumer or a customer.


1.) I see you, and you see me.

Our healthcare experiences cannot be defined or viewed in a transactional way. Healthcare is relationship-based and about the human experience. The patient-doctor relationship is one that has deep value – not in terms of dollars and cents.


2.) I feel, and you feel too. Our relationship is unique and special. 

Healthcare is unlike any other consumer experience or industry, and the emotional aspects are an integral part of it.  Patients share with physicians the happiest, the saddest, the most challenging, and the most raw moments of their lives. The patient-doctor relationship is based on trust, empathy, and compassion.


3.) I know that you are here because you want to help and support us.

Physicians want to support and heal others, to care for fellow human beings, and are not practicing for financial or institutional incentives, or survey scores.


4.) I have few choices in my healthcare decisions and at times that makes me feel very helpless.

Much of what is dictated to patients is determined by an insurance company, or for many, by the lack of insurance or lack of access to care. And ultimately, choices are dictated by the disease or illness itself.


5.) Partner with me.

Empower and engage patients as an equal member of the care team. Patients and families want to be partners.