Posts Tagged ‘patient’

Rehabilitation is mostly understood as a side order of a full-blown treatment of an illness. Should it be so? The first casualty of that point of view is rehabilitation itself. Rehabilitation is “a set of interventions needed when a person is experiencing limitations in everyday physical, mental, and social functioning due to ageing or a health condition, including chronic diseases or disorders, injuries, or trauma”[i] The definition does not imply that rehabilitation should be linked to the treatment of an illness. My point is that rehabilitation should be linked to maintaining one’s physical or mental health: a prevention tool more than a cure.

If we take that approach, rehabilitation would become part of primary care as against being a by-product of specialist care. Primary care is the point to which a person will turn when feeling something is wrong with his/her health. That does not mean necessarily that the person is ill; that the person is a “patient”. I resent very much that word. The label “patient” is diminishing any way you look at it. Does it mean you must be tolerant with the health professional who is treating you? Or is it that you must endure your suffering? The use of the word “patient” limits also the scope that rehabilitation should have since it links rehabilitation to illness.

Rehabilitation should take a bigger role in humans’ wellbeing. A recent paper[ii] points out that almost one in three people on the planet needs some kind of rehabilitation. If we narrow the focus, 1.71 billion people have musculoskeletal conditions that could benefit from rehabilitation. Narrowing even more, around 30% of the population in the European Region has musculoskeletal problems.

With an ageing society, that percentage is only going to increase and the health system, or primary care for that matter, is not and will not be able to cope with the problem. A different approach must be taken to devise a system that relies more on prevention and less on after- the fact- cure. The situation represents a unique opportunity for developing easy to use ICT tools that help primary care professionals address the growing demand for preventive and curative rehabilitation therapies.

[i] Cieza A. Rehabilitation the health strategy of the 21st century, really? Arch Phys Med Rehabil 2019; 100: 2212–14. Cited by Cieza A. et al Global estimates of the need for rehabilitation based on the Global Burden of Disease study 2019: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. thelancet.com on December 4, 2020

[ii] Cieza A. et al Global estimates of the need for rehabilitation based on the Global Burden of Disease study 2019: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. thelancet.com on December 4, 2020. https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0140-6736%2820%2932340-0 Accessed 08.12.20

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How we call or qualify somebody does really matter and shows with more or less subtlety, depending on our stance towards what is now called political correctness, what we think about that person in particular.

Almost everybody will agree that if I address somebody as that person, the implication is that I don’t think very highly of him or her. Shopkeepers will treat people who enter the shop differently if they think about them as buyers –they should come, buy and leave- than if they think about them as clients –they are here to be served and will come back-.

If we assume  the above, why is it that in the health sector we keep insisting on calling people patients? According to the Free Online Dictionary (and I assure you very similar definitions will be found in any other dictionary) the definitions  for “patient” are:


1. Bearing or enduring pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance with calmness.

2. Marked by or exhibiting calm endurance of pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance.

3. Tolerant; understanding: an unfailingly patient leader and guide.

4. Persevering; constant. “With patient industry, she revived the failing business and made it thrive”.

5. Capable of calmly awaiting an outcome or result; not hasty or impulsive.

6. Capable of bearing or enduring pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance: «My uncle Toby was a man patient of injurie» (Laurence Sterne).


1. One who receives medical attention, care, or treatment.

2. Linguistics: A noun or noun phrase identifying one that is acted upon or undergoes an action. Also called goal.

3. Archaic: One who suffers.

A neutral reader will see that most of the definitions refer to suffering or calmly enduring something. Does this not say a lot about how the health sector regards what should be, and are, its clients?

Unless health professionals start thinking about people in need of health advice as clients, and calling them clients, I think there is little hope for an effective re-engineering of the heath processes that will result in the necessary sustainable health and social system. Anything less is just plugging holes in an antiquated social and health provision system.

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