Health consumerism is an approach to health care where educated patients make informed decisions about health care options, with a particular focus on preventative care. In some regions this approach is favored by health organizations and providers on the grounds that it helps patients make better choices about care and can improve quality of life. The rise of health consumerism also contributes to the development of an associated wellness industry that provides products and services for preventative care.
In health consumerism, the patient plays an active role in decision making related to health care. Patients may ask questions about their diagnosis and the treatment options. They can research, seek out second opinions, and discuss the situation with their doctors. This differs from a model where doctors provide a diagnosis and recommend a treatment with the expectation that the patient will pursue that treatment.
Informed patients may have a better understanding of the diagnosis, options, and what to expect. This can result in better patient outcomes, as patients are prepared for aftercare needs and may be less likely to experience disappointment about treatment outcomes. Health care consumerism also tends to promote preventative care and early intervention because patients are more aware of topics like how the body works and the risk factors for various medical issues.
Hospitals, clinics, and care providers need to make adjustments to their strategies to adapt to health consumerism. Like consumers in other industries, patients may comparison shop and preferentially choose providers on the basis of reputation, price, and available amenities and services. Measures like a nursing hotline for patients to call at any time to handle questions, private rooms, and so forth may appeal to consumers who could face a choice between multiple care providers.
Wellness is also an important part of health consumerism. Patients may have an interest in being proactive about their health care needs, which can include taking steps to prevent the onset of disease. These activities may include making lifestyle changes, seeking early screening for health care issues, and working with health coaches to address specific concerns. Hospitals and clinics with wellness services and comprehensive health care options that include prevention can attract consumers.
A key component of health consumerism is access to information. Many medical providers offer classes, brochures, and other education options to their patients. Online resources for health care questions and education are available through a number of organizations and care providers. Public health agencies may engage in outreach to access members of a community who may not be able to find these resources on their own.