You Say ‘Patient’ and I Say ‘Consumer’ – Either Way, We Both Want Convenience

What do you call a person seeking care from a health professional these days? Some say patient, and others say consumer. Either way, one thing is true: when we need to see a doctor, one thing we really want is convenience.

New public policy efforts and the efforts of entrepreneurial thinkers are changing the game on the convenience issue already. We have more choices than we used to, and it is undeniable that as patients, we are becoming better consumers, looking for providers who will meet a range of needs we have and not just treat our ailment.

Should we wait for a regular check-up to get a doctor’s advice? Or should we track our own health indicators and review our own records with one of the many devices bloggers Todd Hixon and Neil Versel have been writing about in Forbes?

Should we go to a minute clinic at the mall or visit the emergency room at a hospital?

Should we take the “next available appointment” or shop around for the magic words: “the doctor will see you now?”

Dr. Sanjay Gupta wrote an entire column last year with advice on how to get in to see your doctor sooner. His prescription? Convey urgency, be thorough, get a referral, and ask questions.

I would not dare disagree with Dr. Gupta. Still, the patient/customer is craving a more efficient solution without having to grovel. And let’s face it: most of us don’t even want to have to call the doctor’s office at all. There is no doubt that physicians and their all-important office staffers would like to get off the phone too. They have work piling up and patients right there in front of them who need their attention.

According to Pew Research Center, 64% of adults in the United States have smart-phones, and if you are a provider not primarily treating people above age 65, the percentage in your patient population may be much higher. As patients and as consumers, we need the option of using personal technology that helps us get in to see the doctor as soon as possible when that is what we think we need to do.

Healthcare innovators and entrepreneurs will keep making it easier for all of us to get timely access to quality care. The rest of us can contribute by asking our providers to invest in technology tools that improve our experience whether we think of ourselves as patients or consumers. Either way, we can all be advocates for greater convenience as part of a better patient experience. Be polite but tell them we need it in a hurry.