Patient vs. “customer-owner”


Fam Pract Manag. 2008 Apr;15(4):11.

The article “Transforming Your Practice: What Matters Most” [January 2008] was well done, but I take issue with one point. The authors, in discussing what the business is about, say: “It is about human beings. Alaska Native people are not just patients; they are customers and owners of the business. As such, we refer to them as ‘customer-owners.’” The implication is that the people are more than “just” patients; “customer-owners” is more inclusive.

I think the authors have it backward. The term “patient” is defined in Webster's dictionary as a person who is under medical care. This concept is not anathema, though we are being conditioned to think so. If a physician is seeing a person as a patient first, the physician will be respectful, compassionate and intent on relieving suffering or assisting in the cure of the individual. This approach is not about business; it is about resonating with vulnerable human beings who need our care.

Until we remember to treat the human first and the business second, the public will continue to complain about our profession's insensitivity and the way doctors are no longer “connecting.” Think about the last time you were treated for a medical condition with sincere compassion, communication and competence. I'll bet the first thing that came to your mind was not whether you, as an owner and customer, were being delivered a core product.


Send your comments to fpmedit@aafp.org. Submission of a letter will be construed as granting AAFP permission to publish the letter in any of its publications in any form. We cannot respond to all letters we receive. Those chosen for publication will be edited for length and style.


Copyright © 2008 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact fpmserv@aafp.org for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions


Nov-Dec 2020

Access the latest issue
of FPM journal

Read the Issue

FPM E-Newsletter

Sign up to receive FPM's free, weekly e-newsletter, "Quick Tips & Insights."

Sign Up Now


Tobacco Cessation Telehealth Guide

Smoking cessation counseling and pharmacotherapy options are cost-effective ways to help patients quit smoking. Learn the role telehealth can play in your practice’s efforts, along with billing, coding, and documentation tips.

Understanding and Improving Risk Adjustment in Team-Based Care

Understand the basics of risk adjustment and how it is used in value-based payment (VBP) arrangements. Learn strategies to thrive in VBP and risk-adjustment models to optimize payment while providing high-quality patient care.

Incorporating Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention Into Practice

Incorporating alcohol screening and brief intervention benefits your patients and family medicine practice. Follow these steps to reduce risky alcohol use by choosing a screening test, establishing a practice workflow, and appropriately coding and billing.