The ‘New’ Health Care Consumerism

Consumerism has been defined in a variety of ways, both positive and negative, and its origins, at least in the United States, trace back nearly a century. The concept of consumerism in health care is more recent, with references to patients as “consumers” dating to the 1930s. Today, the concept is generally understood to mean people proactively using trustworthy, relevant information and appropriate technology to make better-informed decisions about their health care options in the broadest sense, both within and outside the clinical setting.

We’ve come a long way in recent years toward realizing this vision. Progress has been facilitated by several trends, such as community-based participatory research, the work of numerous patient advocacy groups dedicated to the concept of “nothing about me without me,” and the emphasis on supporting authentic and meaningful patient and family engagement.

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