Survey Results of Patient vs Client

Reference:APTEI on-line Survey November 2011

Prior to this survey, I truly did not realize that this was such a ?hot? topic. Thank you for voicing your valuable opinion. I honestly read all the 464 responses.

Many were quite passionate with their choice of either ?patient? or ?client?. I will attempt to summarize common themes that came up. Of the 464 respondents,

1% stated that it did not matter so they had no preference, as it was only semantics

5% stated that they use both terms, ?patient? in a hospital setting and ?client? in private practice

4% preferred the term ?client?

91% preferred the term ?patient?

One general impression I got was that the ?older? more experiences PTs preferred ?patient? and the ?new grad? PTs preferred ?client?.

Those who prefer the term ?patient? wish to be a health ?care? provider rather than a health ?business? provider.

Those who prefer the term ?client? believe in empowering their clients and as an equal partner in their treatment.

It seems quite clear to me that the far majority (91%) of PTs prefer the term ?patient?, perhaps the 91% need to speak out more often. The trend is that in many settings the term ?client? is taking over, and PTs are simply not voicing their opinion.

I was quite entertained by the many of the comments, so I will share a few of them with you.


  • Pro-Patient CommentsIf my family Doctor ever starts calling me his ?client?, my trust in him would be gone …I?d immediately think, what is he trying to sell me?

    Whenever Physiotherapists refer to their patients as ?clients?, I cringe? I can?t stand it!

    We go to our Doctors for a physical examination not because we are ‘suffering’ …yet we still get called ?patients?.

    An elderly person falls and goes to emergency where they are a ?patient? ? sent home where they receive community rehab and immediately become a ?client?? Figure that out.

    A hospital is not a hotel…?client? seems to better serve a hotel atmosphere …what?s next, in-client or out-client physiotherapy departments?

    Referring to patients as ?clients? gives the connotation that we are treating them for their money …we might as well put signs at Physiotherapy clinic doors saying ?Thank you for your business, come again?. Let?s stop this politically correct word nonsense.

    A lawyer, an accountant or a hair dresser provides a service more at a distance and often regardless of sympathy and other psychological factors …I hope that is NOT how Physiotherapists practice.

    Think of when the word ?client? is used …as health care providers we need to distinguish between people coming for manicure, pedicure, a massage, or to file a divorce case.

    ?Client? is a sterile, uncaring word in my opinion and moves us closer to a complete disconnect …and using the term ?client? lowers the status of our profession.

    My husband called me at the clinic one day and the secretary told him that I was in with a ?client?. He giggled as it sounded like I worked at a brothel …to avoid future confusion, I vote for ?patient?!

  • Pro-Client CommentsAs a Physiotherapist and a health care seeker, I do not like the term ?patient?, and do not prefer to be referred as one, if I am sitting in the doctor?s office.

    Public health care practitioners are allowed to get away with poor “customer care”, since money does not pass directly from the hands of the patient to the Doctor.

    As a client or consumer the term gives you a sense of being part of the decision-making process and as someone who is a partner in their recovery and treatment process and someone who is actively seeking advice/help.

    I prefer the term ?client? …until we start looking at our patients as customers, we are destined to offer less than ideal customer service.

    We really should not be promoting the sick role and the please fix me attitude but rather a partnership in healing and an enabling to recover which is much better fulfilled in the ?client? role!

    In this day and age patients are no longer passive recipients of healthcare but actively engaged consumers who make educated choices in regards to their health and lifestyles.

    The term ?patient? has more of a “poor me” or “I’m so hard done by” connotation to it and it implies less control, whereas ?client? implies they are more in charge, as they are paying for a desired service.
    Posted on: November 22, 2011

    Categories: Relevant Physical Therapy Articles

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