Are You a Patient or Consumer?

Are You a Patient or a Consumer?

Recently I read the book, Disrupt Aging, by Jo Ann Jenkins.

In one chapter, Jo Ann talked about medical care. She talked about the difference between a patient and a consumer.  After I read that, I thought quite a bit about it.

About 50 years ago in this country, most people would have been considered patients when it came to their medical care.  They only saw a doctor when they were sick.  In most towns, there were only 1 or 2 doctors and their choice of a doctor was limited to one of those two.

The Family Doctor Was the Expert

Back then, there wasn’t much information available to the public about any conditions, even common ones. People had to rely on their doctor knowing about what they had and on what the doctor told them they had to do to get better. The doctor was the expert on any and all conditions.

The problem was that sometimes the local doctor knew quite a bit about a condition and other times, they didn’t. If there were no specialists close by treating a specific condition, the doctor had to try to treat it him or herself.

How Times Have Changed!

Now there is an abundance of information available on just about every medical condition. Most times, it’s right at a person’s fingertips. People can get this information quickly right at home over the internet.  Online, they can also get information on the best hospitals and doctors in their area for every condition.

In effect, they have the opportunity to become consumers of medical care.

When it comes to buying a car, a house, a major appliance, a consumer looks at what they can afford. Then they look at all of the different models in their price range. Then they pick the one they feel is the best for them.

More and more people now are doing their own research. They’re finding out about the conditions they, their spouses, or their children have. They also find out what steps they can take to minimize the condition or recover from it.

They also look at the doctors in their area who treat the condition and which one has the best ratings. They then try to schedule an appointment with that doctor. If they like that doctor, he or she will become their doctor for that condition.

Even with primary care doctors, people are looking for the best one with whom they feel most comfortable.  That doctor has to give them the proper care and refer them to the right specialist when they don’t have the expertise on how to treat them for the condition they have.

More and more people don’t rely on their primary care doctor giving them the name of a specialist to see. They ask him or her which doctors in the area are the best for the condition they have. They then research each one to determine which one they feel is the best for them and schedule an appointment with that at doctor.

When it comes to Medical Care, . . .

 . . . More and More People are Consumers Rather than Patients

The slowest group to become consumers of medical care here in East Tennessee is older people. Most remain patients.

When they were young and needed a doctor, they either went to the same one their family members or friends were going to or picked one out of the phone book. They have continued to see that doctor all of their lives.

The only time they see him or her is when they are really ill and need help.  They rely on everything the doctor tells them and don’t question him or her at all. Often. they don’t get a second opinion.

If their doctor tells them they need to see a specialist, they schedule an appointment with the one he or she recommends. After all, their doctor recommended this specialist.  He or she can’t be wrong.

Sadly, this specialist may not be the best one for them. He or she may not treat them properly for what they have. Their condition may stay the same or get worse. They may even die more quickly than they would have if they were treated properly.

Let me ask . . .

Are You a Patient or a Consumer?

When you have a medical problem, do you just see your family doctor about it or do you research what you have and figure out what the best course of treatment for you? If your doctor is not recommending that treatment, have you asked them why? Have you checked out who the best doctors in your area are for that problem? Have you scheduled an appointment with that doctor?

You may want to think about this.  If you’re just a patient, you’re relying totally on your doctor’s opinion and advice as to what kind of treatment you need.  Hopefully, he or she is right. If not, you may not get better as quickly as you should. Your condition may stay the same or deteriorate.  Your life also may end prematurely.

When it came to getting medical care., I, myself, was your typical man. I never had a personal doctor for most of my life.  The only time I saw one was for a routine physical and years went by between the routine physicals I had.

In 2004, I was having chest pain.  My wife nagged me to see a doctor.  I held off until she told friends of ours about it.

All Three Ganged up on Me!!!

That was a Sunday. I had an appointment with a doctor the following Friday.

The doctor asked me to have a stress EKG at the hospital the following Monday. I flunked that. A week later I had double bypass surgery.

Since then, I have become a strong consumer when it comes to my health.  I see my primary care doctor and my cardiologist regularly.

My surgery was done in Illinois.  After it, I had a cardiologist I really liked. I researched him before my first appointment.  Unfortunately, he had just moved to Illinois before I started seeing him.  He and his family did not care for the area and ended up moving back to New Hampshire four years later.

When he left, they assigned another cardiologist in the same cardiology group to my case.  I met with him twice.  I didn’t care for him.  I also didn’t like what I found out about him when I did my research.  So, I fired him and got another one who was one of the top cardiologists in the area.

Prior to moving to Knoxville in 2016, I researched cardiologists in the area. I found the best ones and selected one to be my doctor. He recommended 3 doctors who I could research to be my family doctor. I researched all three and picked one.

I am totally pleased with the care I am getting from both doctors.  I also monitor closely what they recommend.

Again, I ask – Are you a patient or consumer?

If you’re a patient, are you getting the best medical care you need? If you’re not, consider doing your own research and see doctors who are the best ones for you.


If you have any comments on what you have read in this post, please email them to me. Also – if you have any ideas about subjects you would like to see discussed in future posts, please send me an email and let me know. My email address is