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.