Patients are now increasingly behaving as "concerned customers" who want to be in control of how they are treated by the NHS, rather than letting health professionals take control, according to award-winning new research.
Doctoral marketing research undertaken by Dan Nunan, Marketing Director of a publishing firm, said that when interacting with professionals – whether doctors, lawyers or academics – individuals are acting less like "patients" and more like "consumers" in their behaviour.
"The information asymmetry that existed between patients and doctors in the past no longer exists, as the range of health information available at a click of a mouse increases exponentially," the research paper said. "It is therefore not so much a case of 'worried well', but 'concerned customers'."
The research paper, which received one of five national annual prizes awarded by the Worshipful Company of Marketors, stated: "Increasingly, the public is dealing with professionals in much the same way that they deal with any sort of service provider – acting as consumers and wanting to be in control and involved in the service process, rather than letting professionals take control."
Mr Nunan explained: "In an era where the airwaves are full of government health campaigns, perhaps it is inevitable that people will become more worried about their health. When even government services such as NHS Direct point people towards the internet for health information, it's not surprising that there are conflicting messages."
The research found that one of the problems for health professionals is the quality of information available on the internet, which could be misleading. One study that analysed more than 400 randomly chosen health-related internet sites found that only 48% were published by credible sources such as medical bodies or government departments.
Are patients right to behave like consumers where healthcare is concerned? Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"That is why the NHS is struggling to cope with the increased demand. Patients want all and any of the treatments available worldwide, and their expectations are unreasonable, and therefore we get the negative headlines regarding decisions made by NICE! I am copletely in agreement that patient autonomy is to be encouraged, but patients must also take responsibility for their illness (binge drinking, smoking-related illness, alcohol and drug addiction, obesity etc) if they really cared about their health. They cannot demand treatment, when their illness is due to their lifestyle choices" – Name and address withheld
"Yes, patients do want to be in 'control' but are frequently very reluctant to 'take' control and advice, if it conflicts with how they want to live their lives – poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, alcohol etc – is very rarely appreciated" – Marie, Lancs
"Good preparation for the time when there will be no NHS and people will pay for their healthcare at source then!" – Name and address withheld