Should patients be treated as customers, and if so, are they always right?

More patients are being referred to as consumers, and some don’t agree with the connotation.

“That puts a bigger emphasis on how much profit the patient can make a company, which can lead to less-than-optimal decisions on behalf of the patient later on,” says diabetes blogger Manny Hernandez.

However, patients are now encouraged to advocate on their own behalf, and entities like high deductible health plans and health savings accounts make it a requirement to shop around and compare prices.

Fellow diabetes blogger Amy Tenderich writes that being a consumer implies being a customer, as in, “the customer is always right.” But how realistic is that?

When a patient presents to the emergency room with crushing chest pain and is diagnosed with a heart attack, are they really able to shop around for the lowest price or request angioplasty versus bypass surgery?

After being evaluated for back pain, should patients who request an MRI automatically receive one? Or when in chronic discomfort, should they receive narcotics on demand?

The answer to all those questions is no. Patients can never “always be right,” and for that matter, neither can doctors. Ideally, medical decisions should be made with patients informed each step of the way, with guidance by a medical professional.

Hopefully, the resulting shared decision would then be agreeable to both sides.