Over the past several decades healthcare has increasingly defined patients as medical consumers. For example, healthcare advertising is today a $22 billion annual business; federal policymakers have over the past few years instituted regulations requiring both hospitals and commercial health plans to make pricing information public; and, provider quality performance information is increasingly publicly reported. The question begged is to what extent have efforts to define patients as medical care consumers been successful - or even legitimate. In “Remaking the American Patient,” winner of the prestigious Bancroft Prize, Prof. Tomes explains how over the past century the public or patients have increasingly been defined as medical consumers and evaluates whether medical consumerism, or medicine as a commercial product, has served the public or patients’ interests and/or has transformed American healthcare for the better.
During this 37-minute discussion Prof. Tomes begins by explaining what prompted her to write the book. She discusses the inherent problems with defining patients as consumers and medicine as a commodity, what explains the origin of patient/medical consumerism (largely uniquely American), discusses the 1973 Patients Bill of Rights as an exemplary patient empowerment effort and the ongoing or never-ending tension between medical professionalism and patient consumerism. She concludes by summarizing her findings and what capacity there is to resolve the conflict between professionalism and consumerism or change the paradigm.
Prof. Nancy Tomes is Professor History at Stony Brook University. Her publications include: Madness in America: Cultural and Medical Perceptions of Mental Illness Before 1914, with Lynn Gamwell (Cornell, 1995), The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women and the Microbe in American Life (Harvard, 1998), and Remaking the American Patient: How Madison Avenue and Modern Medicine Turned Patients into Consumers (UNC, 2016); plus two co-edited collections, Medicine's Moving Pictures, with Leslie Reagan and Paula Treichler (Rochester, 2007), and Patients as Policy Actors, with Beatrix Hoffman, Rachel Grob, and Mark Schlesinger (Rutgers, 2011); and a website, "Medicine and Madison Avenue," on the history of health-related advertising, developed in collaboration with Duke University Library's Special Collections. Prof. Tomes was graduated from the U. of Pennsylvania with a Ph.D. in History.
Information on “Remaking the American Patient,” is at: https://uncpress.org/book/9781469622774/remaking-the-american-patient/.