Don’t call them patients! How to name your healthcare customer

Calling them “patients” is out of date. So, what should you name your healthcare customer?

What to call your healthcare customer

What to name your healthcare customer

Today’s healthcare customer is different. They know more, ask more questions, and expect to be partners in their treatment. We used to call them patients. Now, if anything, they are im-patient!

So if patient is out of date, what do healthcare organizations call their most important audience member?

Name your healthcare customer: Alternatives to patient

Different sectors in healthcare have come up with different names for patients. For example:

  • Behavioral health organizations use consumers or clients
  • Medicaid providers and health plans use members
  • Digital healthcare firms call patients users

In my opinion, client is the most acceptable label – it suggests partnership, which healthcare customers now expect. The most awkward is consumer, which sounds passive.

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Current trends: Naming populations with health issues

Naming a population with health issues can be tricky! Labels that might have been acceptable in the past are now seen as controversial or demeaning.

Be careful with these labels! What is acceptable can change frequently, and they can vary by location and community.

  • Mental health: Use behavioral health instead
  • Special needs and handicapped: Use disability instead; except:
  • Hearing: Hearing loss or hard of hearing is OK, but hearing disability or impairment is controversial! Deaf is acceptable too.
  • Vision: In some circles blind is controversial. Low vision, visually disabled, visually impaired are OK.

Got messaging challenges?

Let’s talk! We do everything from positioning and labeling, to website development, to social media for healthcare. And our fees are designed to be affordable for medium size organizations. Email me at

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About us

LevinsonBlock is a Brooklyn-based healthcare marketing agency that specializes in mid-sized organizations. Our clients include healthcare providers such as FQHCs, disease foundations, and healthcare technology firms.
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