October 22, 20148 Comments

By Deborah Smith Parker

The word patient is so common to the health care industry and our culture that we don’t even think about it, so inured have we become to its shackles. A patient, as defined in the dictionary, is one who:

1: Bears pains or trials calmly or without complaint;
2: Manifests forbearance under provocation and strain;
3: One that is acted upon.

SKELETON IN CHAIRI don’t know how that term came to describe one who uses medical services, but it probably had something to do with the invention of the first waiting room.

The term patient doesn’t have a wonderful connotation for insurers either. Enrollees in a health insurance plan are called beneficiaries. That’s nice, isn’t it? It implies that something good is to come from the arrangement. However, once a beneficiary sees a medical practitioner that beneficiary is hereafter referred to as a patient.

Seems like it should be reversed. When we need to use the medical services (for which, incidentally, most of us are paying a healthy chunk of premium, so we should have more of a voice than we presently do) then we should become beneficiaries of these services. But, alas, it is not so.

Let’s stop using  patient all together. Let’s use customer instead. Think of the transformation to follow. Do customers wait uncomplainingly in restaurants if their reservations aren’t honored in a timely fashion? Do they return after such treatment? Would a customer wait 45 minutes huddled in a cell-like room completely nude under a paper drape the size of a grocery bag to meet a mechanic for the first time?

I started my personal revolution within the medical industry a few years ago, and I like the results. I tell physicians to look up patient in the dictionary. They are surprised. They haven’t thought about it. I then tell them I’m a customer and they are my consultants. They do think about that.

I recently got an orthopedist to not only personally rip up my bill, but return my co-pay. I had wanted orthotics. I verified with his staff when I made the appointment that he, indeed, did do orthotics. It turned out he did not. Nobody in that office seemed at all concerned that my needs hadn’t been met, including the physician who made me wait over an hour only to give a vague referral to a group who “might” do orthotics.

A patient would have just gone away, the claim form would have been submitted and the physician reimbursed. But I acted like a customer and that office’s unsatisfactory performance was not rewarded by compensation. Nor is anyone there likely to forget that experience any time soon.

So the next time you’re moldering in a medical office’s drafty waiting room reading a two year old copy of Canoes and You, think what a customer would do. Then act on it. I could use a little help in the trenches. This is war. Together we customers could even take on the insurance industry. Patients wouldn’t dream of it.

So where are you on this issue? I’d love to hear.

In addition to being a professional astrologer and writer on many subjects, Deborah Smith Parker worked for several years in the healthcare management industry. She is author of the newly released (2014) “The Horse that Haunts My Heart” and (2010) “Humanus Astrologicus,” both available in paperback and Kindle–which are not related in any way to healthcare. (“Thank God,” she says.) To sign up to receive her blog or follow her on Twitter (@astro_logicus) and Facebook click to the right of this post.

About author:

Deborah Smith Parker is re-writing the often impenetrable language of astrology into a much friendlier form. She has spent her 30 plus years as an astrological consultant, writer, teacher and lecturer freeing the rich astrological images and their descriptions increasingly buried under modern clinical and technological descriptions. Her additional work in public policy has provided many outlets for demonstrating her ability to break down highly complex systems into information that’s easily understood.

All entries by

8 Responses to “LOSING PATIENTS”

  1. Andrea says:

    I have had both experiences, as a costumer and as a patient depending on the physician.
    Most physicians have no respect for their patients and make them wait for hours no matter how ill they may feel. One day I visited an otorhinolaryngologist who obviously wanted to retire very soon since we found problems even on my children who were not his patients. According to him we all needed a nose or throat surgery.
    At present we are fortunate with our family doctor, he is very kind, considerate, and accurate. Nevertheless, medications heels one thing and make sick another.

    Besides this, all is money, laboratories, drug stores. It is cheaper to visit the most luxurious hotel of the city than going to the hospital.

  2. We are DEFINITELY customers of the insurance industry. Yet we are treated like criminals when we make a claim in most cases. I am fairly lucky with my current insurance as it’s a mutual company, but the rates are outrageous. People in other developed nations (like all of them, for instance) think we are savages in denying our citizens medical care under any circumstances, and yet the incredibly minimal services that our President barely managed to get through Congress (at least he got THAT done) are constantly attacked in this nation full of so many “uneducated, ignorant and proud of it” people…too sad.

  3. Deborah – I personally LOVE your Aries energy to shake things up here, as I feel very similarly to you. Health care providers and healers of all types are there to SERVICE (i.e. heal) those they serve, not harass them or keep them in the same state (or worsen their state) for all time! The Western World needs to reinstate the health model that ancient Asia used, wherein the healer gets paid only when the client becomes WELL. Can you imagine a world like that? It was like that before doctors and lawyers realized they had to change the system so that they could benefit, not those who needed those services! It is also interesting to note something else: the reason it is called a medical practice is because licensed doctors had permission to actually PRACTICE on their patients, which would use unproven methods! Can we further see why patients needed to be endlessly patient? Kudos to you and to any others who stand up for patient rights, and yes – they are indeed clients or customers! Awesome observation!

  4. Siccum, Deborah! Thanks for making us think.

  5. Lisa Mooney says:

    Deborah, Love this I will show it to my RN/MD friends. I have said this for years, but as you know, even more so now, it is all about the profit motive. Not so much for the RN/MD’s, but for the middle men/women, the Huge Bloated Insurance Industry in this country. They will take their cut, come hell or high water, so unfortunately, MD/NP’s have to double book 15 minute appt slots just to pay their overhead and make a modest yearly salary. We need a good single payer system in this country, don’t think it will happen before I retire, in hopefully only 17 more years.

Leave a Reply

  • Facebook
  • Twitter