[HEALTHCARE] What do we call people before they become patients? 

Estimated read time: 2 minutes

As I’m continuing to think about the future of storytelling, content marketing and other digital marketing strategies as they relate to population health and healthcare marketing I wondered if we’re missing a word to describe patients before they become patients. 

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Currently, physicians have relationships with patients, which means the person needs help with some kind of medical problem and by definition needs treatment. But as we are thinking about how do we keep the population healthy and healthier  what’s the relationship called between the physician and the person that doesn’t need treatment yet? What do we even call that person?

  • Pre-patient?
  • Potential patient  
  • Future patient 

Ugh. I don’t like any of those because each implies that at some point they will became patients, which also might mean that there’s now a medical problem. Of course the goal shouldn’t be to get people to become patients. I’d like to see as many of us be as healthy as possible. (I realize that some illnesses or diseases are not preventable.)

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If we are moving into the direction of whole-person healthcare that has providers collaborate with the non-patients to get healthier and stay healthy we likely do need a word for those non-patients. People is just too all encompassing. Community member is an option but also a bit broad. 

If I’m a patient the expectation can be that we are trying to find out what’s “wrong” with me. But maybe there’s nothing officially wrong but I could change some eating, sleeping or whatever habits. 

For example, when I go to the eye doctor once a year I don’t expect that anything will be fixed or treated. My eyes are what they are and have been in their current state (not good) for decades. It’s truly a precautionary check-in. Technically, I’m a patient, but not in the sense of that I need treatment either.

That reminds me of the difference in terminology in content marketing. We have content creators, producers and also storytellers. All these terms mean slightly different things and all can do very similar things. But the subtle differences can be  huge in implementation. 

Content producers may not think of telling stories but instead focus on nonstop production, for example. 

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We behave in the way we see ourselves and people treat us the way they identify us and our current role. Can we make it work without a new word? Maybe. Would it help? It certainly can help us move forward to a healthier population and even more relevant relationships. 

Got ideas? Tweet me at @ctrappe.

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