Consumerism places 'disproportionate burdens' on patients to reduce cost, researchers argue

Patient consumer metaphors place "disproportionate burdens" on patients to solve healthcare's cost and quality issues, researchers wrote in a blog post published by Health Affairs.

Academics from the Hastings Center, a nonprofit bioethics research institute in Garrison, N.Y., wrote that patient-centered care messages have begun to mesh with patient consumerism. The authors note while patient advocates began using consumerism as a means to challenge corporate and professional dominance in healthcare, "today, 'consumer-driven' healthcare has become associated with neoliberal efforts to emphasize market factors in health reform and de-emphasize government regulation and financing."

The authors continue: "In our view, a narrow focus on consumerism is conceptually confused and potentially harmful. The consumer metaphor wrongly assumes that healthcare is a market in the usual understanding of that term, that the high cost of U.S. healthcare is a function of excessive consumer demand, and that price transparency and competition can deliver on the promise of reducing costs or ensuring quality."

The researchers concluded if the consumer metaphor continues, they believe patient-centered approaches, which can lead to improvements in healthcare, would be undermined.

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