Is the term 'patient' outdated? Why this physician thinks so

It may be time to remove the term "patient" from the healthcare lexicon, a paramedic-turned-physician wrote in an op-ed published in STAT. 

In healthcare, everyone is a patient — even when they feel fine and aren't in a hospital or physician's office — which can put them in submissive and dehumanizing roles, Summer Knight, MD, wrote in the op-ed.  

Instead of using the term "patients," clinicians should consider calling the people they treat "clients," "activated consumers" or "partners." With that shift, clinicians may begin to see the people they serve as proactive individuals ready to engage in their healthcare, Dr. Knight argues. 

Dr. Knight said her proposed terms are more in touch with the times, as more individuals want to be in the driver's seat and have a say in their care.

"With healthcare clients in the driver’s seat, they become the captains of their own destiny by working with a healthcare team they trust — and can communicate with — as partners in their health journeys. They hold themselves accountable for their choices, and they advance past today's episodic interactions with health care to continuous connectivity, reaching out to their care teams whenever and however they need," Dr. Knight said.

With a simple change in terminology, individuals may be able to focus on wellness rather than illness, Dr. Knight argued.

"I have seen firsthand the advantages that can emerge from this shift and believe it is an essential piece for humanizing health care. By embracing a client-centric model, the various players within the industry will be able to restore the human connection in healthcare; empower clients to take charge of their health, disease, lifestyle, and care options; and inject compassion and empathy into the science of medicine," Dr. Knight wrote. 

Access the full op-ed here

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