Photo Credit: hotblack - stock.xchngECP Magazine has published in this month’s issue a blog entry I made awhile back regarding my argument for use of the word customer over patient in optical. Paul King, an optician and column writer for ECP thinks I missed the key point which is "caring", when caring was the impetus my entire argument; caring not only for the health care needs of the patient but also for the needs of the customer.

Caring for the customer’s need to be informed.

Caring for the customer’s need to feel like she has been part of the process.

Caring for the customer’s need to be treated with respect.

Caring for the customer’s desire to enjoy the experience (whenever practical).

These are the ways in which customers are often treated and not often how patients are treated.

In most cases, the health care practitioner’s role stops at meeting the needs of the patient and does not include meeting the needs of the customer. This is why I advocate the abandonment of the word patient in favor of the word customer.

King would eliminate the word customer, because it implies "business" which is somehow bad for business? The business of health care is not what is wrong with health care. In fact, it is sadly what is missing from health care. Health care practitioners no longer compete in a free market. Health care choices have been taken from the hands of the patients and placed in the hands of government and third-party payers. Unfortunately, this also the direction optical is heading.

The patient mind set encourages people to abrogate responsibility for payment and treatment decisions to third-party payers and government programs. The third-party payers and government programs then in turn propagate the patient mind set; a feedback loop that continually takes more responsibility from the health care consumer and increases dependency upon bureaucracy.

Great for the insurance companies and bureaucracies.

Bad for the industry and the health care consumer.

If health care consumers thought of themselves as customers instead of patients, they wouldn’t take it lying down.

Optical folks need to stop looking to the health care industry as a model for running their businesses and treating their customers, if they wish to succeed in the long run.

Paul King likes to sign off with the message, “Remember folks, take care of your patients and send the customers to the other guys!”

I’ll sign off with a message from your customers, “Treat me like a patient (as if I were incapable or unwilling to be informed and make decisions and have no right to enjoy my experience in your office) and I, your customer, will gladly go see the other guys!”

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