The Patient As A Consumer: A Caregiver’s Thoughts

Gail was on my radio show last friday.  She is the caregiver for her husband Allan who has paraneoplastic syndrome, a neurological disorder.  The disease has him in a wheelchair and he has not been able to work for three years.

Gail has had to learn how to navigate the healthcare system.  She made a great comment about the relationship between patient and doctor.  She said: ” When I talk to a doctor or insurance company, I see myself as the consumer.  You work for me since I am paying.”

This is how she approaches her relationship with the medical profession.  She questions everything and only sees it through the eyes of what will help her husband.  She has learned the art of getting doctors to specify exactly what their plan is.  She doesn’t hesitate to question any new therapy and if her insurance covers it.  She never moves forward until all the questions are answered.

Her experience has been that medical professionals make medical decisions without thinking about financial consequences to the patient.  She has found most are ignorant of the hardships she and her family faces.  If there is an extra charge, she wants the time to budget the money or find an alternative.  So far, Allan has gotten everything he needs.

Many medical professionals flinch at the idea of patients as consumers.  I have read several heated debates on blogs.  It is a touchy subject but Gail got to that thinking out of necessity.  She has the greatest respect for her medical team.  She just needs them to know, all decisions effect their  lives in ways they don’t consider.  She as the consumer is there to remind them.