Letters

Do we need a new word for patients?

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.319.7222.1436a (Published 27 November 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:1436

“Users” isn't an appropriate alternative

  1. Richard Thode, project officer, oncology education committee (richardt@nswcc.org.au)
  1. Australian Cancer Society, Kings Cross, Sydney, NSW 2001, Australia
  2. MDS, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M9A 4C9
  3. Roborough Surgery, Roborough, Plymouth PL6 6PH
  4. St Thomas Health Centre, Exeter EX4 1HJ
  5. Westmead Hospital, Sydney, NSW, Australia

    EDITOR—Part of Tallis's response to Neuberger's idea of doing away with the word “patients” is to suggest that, if the debate is worth pursuing, the next step would be to research what people actually think about the word “patient.”1 Although I'm certain that a small study in Australia will not be the last word on this particular word, might I draw attention to Nair's report last year in the Medical Journal of Australia?2 Nair studied 308 outpatients at John Hunter Hospital, Newcastle, New South Wales, and concluded that over four fifths of all patients approached, and over nine tenths of those aged over 60, preferred the term patient to “client” or “customer.”

    The term “user” more commonly refers to users of injected drugs than to users of the health service and thus could lead to some interesting confusions over time should it be adopted.

    References

    1. 1.
    2. 2.

    Continue to call them patients but treat them like customers

    1. William Bain, vice president, corporate affairs (bbain@mdsintl.com)
    1. Australian Cancer Society, Kings Cross, Sydney, NSW 2001, Australia
    2. MDS, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M9A 4C9
    3. Roborough Surgery, Roborough, Plymouth PL6 6PH
    4. St Thomas Health Centre, Exeter EX4 1HJ
    5. Westmead Hospital, Sydney, NSW, Australia

      EDITOR—Neuberger's article reminds me that in 1993 I was chief executive of Royal Brompton Hospital in London.1 We had a healthy internal debate then about what name we should use for those people who came to the hospital when we became an …

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