YES, patients are indeed referred to as clients in some areas of the planet. It is sad that this is a reality.

I first encountered this in Quezon City years ago. A relative of a patient referred themselves as clients or customers. I later found out that this was the case abroad, where the visiting patient's relative now lived and worked. I gave my opinion and courteously mentioned that patients should be respected and be properly called patients and not entities in a business venture or trade, even if curing people is a physician's source of income.

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It is true, the sick may be clients as they ask or seek a professional for services. They engage in a transaction with the said professional for a particular job and do become dependent on them. They become customers. But in my opinion, calling the sick as clients or customers removes the entity that these individuals are sick or are suffering from an illness, whether it be controlled, in remission, stable, or deteriorating. Calling patients customers is much worse in that the sick patient gets downgraded into a purchaser of services or goods. Empathy is lost. The altruistic and humane aspect of rendering service is replaced by business' bottom line.

It is not that a person coming for a haircut or perm, or a relaxing massage, or a student procuring a textbook or having notes photocopied does not need an attendant's utmost attention and concentration, being treated without respect or care, but patients need to be treated with empathy by individuals in the medical field. The understanding that a customer needs to look good for an event and that utmost care would be rendered by a salon personnel is also noted in the patient-physician relationship.

Cooking food well for customers or delivering breakable goods for clients also have something in common with the patient-physician relationship in that care and love in doing the job are present. But empathy and compassion are what makes the patient-physician relationship more than a business transaction. It is a humane relationship that goes beyond the bottom line of a business transaction.

These are what get thrown out of the window when we start treating patients as customers or purchasers of medical services. The medical team is more than one that gives out medical advice. They also act as a mother or father, a brother or sister, a friend, or a counselor during a time of need. Not that a good advice may not be given by your hairdresser, barber, tailor, or bookstore clerk, but the advice in a patient-physician relationship deals with health, lifestyle, illnesses, and the progression of life beyond death.

Calling patients clients or customers is a slap on their faces as they are treated less than what they should be. It is not humane to do so. Conversely, it would also be a slap on the medical and paramedical profession if this were not corrected because it lessens them to be businessmen or women, and the compassion and care attached to the profession is erased.

Treating or healing the sick is the livelihood of the medical team, composed of the physician, the nurse, the medical technologist, the radiology technician, the neuroelectrophysiology technician, the physical therapist, occupational therapist, and speech therapist among others. It is how they earn their keep. But it SHOULD NOT BE OVERSHADOWED by the prime reason why these individuals answered the call to their profession. Earning a living is important. But to make it the prime objective is erroneous. The patient comes first, which in numerous instances, affects the personal lives of the team - the team's energy, time, health, families, leisure, and yes, including the monetary side of things.

But I digress. Calling patients as customers or clients is old news, but I believe that those in the medical field who believe patients should be called patients are continuing to do their share to correct this mistake that has irked some sectors of society.

Patients should be respected. They should not be referred to as customers or clients where they are simply entities in a transaction. Where is the empathy? Where is the compassion?

Patience, dear patients, patience.