Table 1

Terminology preferences reported in each study

Study, countrySampleQuestion/Task description*ResultsQuality total score (%)
Elliott and White,44 New Zealandn=343 hospital outpatients What would you like to be called if you were unwell and needed to be cared for by a nurse and/or doctor? Patient 87%, client 6%, healthcare consumers 3%, other (mainly first name) 4%.57.1
Probert,35 UKn=100 hospital inpatientsDid they wish to be called consumers, customers, clients or patients? Patient 96%, customers 3%, client 1%.21.4
Cybulska,34 UKn=36 elderly individuals in community (also asked 18 carers)Patients attending day hospital: patient 87.5%, client 6.3%, surname 6.3%.
Patients visited at home by community psychiatric nurses: patient 90%, service user 5%, client 5%.
Upton et al,49 UKn=85 mental health service inpatientsWhen you see a psychiatrist, do you think of yourself as a service user, client, customer, patient or consumer?’ The question was then repeated substituting word psychiatrist with psychiatric nurse and with general practitioner.When seeing psychiatrist: patient 83%, client 7%, service user 5%, other 3%, customer and consumer 1%. When seeing psych nurse: patient 77%, client 13%, service user 4%, other 1%, consumer 2%; customer 1%. When seeing general practitioner: patient 85%, client 5%, service user 4%, customer 4%, other 1%, consumer 0%.78.6
Batra and Lilford,43 UKn=100 women attending antenatal clinicEach subject was shown four separate sentences containing a blank space which could be filled in by any of the terms provided—client, consumer, maternant, mother-to-be, pregnant woman or patient.Information brochure: mother to be 84.9, pregnant woman 70.2, patient 48.2, maternant 25.7, client 23.2, consumer 16.9.
Medical journal: pregnant woman 83.0, mother to be 68.1, patient 43.6, maternant 23.9, client 14.2, consumer 7.9.
Obstetrician talking to midwife: pregnant woman 69.1, mother to be 66.9, patient 61.4, maternant 23.3, client 18.4, consumer 9.4.
Talking to another woman: patient 63.3, mother to be 59.3, pregnant woman 52.7, maternant 16.8, client 16.4, consumer 8.8.
Mueser et al, 70 USAn=302 mental health service inpatients and outpatients We are interested in knowing what you would like to be called (other than your name) as a recipient of mental health services. Client 44.7%, does not matter 20.5%, patient 19.9%, consumer 8.3%, other 6.6%.64.3
Wing,30 USAn=101 back-pain clinic outpatients Would you prefer to be known as: a client; a patient. Patient 74%, client 19%, no preference 8%.58.3
Nair,78 Australian=308 radiology, emergency, pathology, medical, surgical, obstetrics and gynaecology clinic outpatient, and their companionsSubjects were asked their preference from ‘a client, patient or any other title’… Patient 84%, client ~5%, first name ~5%, other ~4%, no response ~2%, customer ~1%.57.1
Byrne et al, 76 UKn=446 antenatal clinic outpatients…the women were asked to mark their first, second and third choice of which description they preferred for themselves, from the following list given in alphabetical order: client, consumer, customer, mother, patient, pregnant woman, woman, other (specify)First choice: patient 39%, mother 30%, woman 11,% other 11%, client 4%, customer 1%, consumer 0%.
Second/third choice: woman 26%, patient 22%, mother 20%, client 10%, customer 2%, consumer 0%.
Nair et al,79 Australian=214 communityParticipants were asked their preference of patient, client, customer or another title… Patient 86%, client 8%, other 5%, customer 1%.50.0
Ritchie et al,33 UKn=147 mental health service outpatientsThe questionnaire determined subject preferences to three choices of term (patient, client or other), their attitudes (to patient and client using a 5-point Likert scale)… Patient 77%, client 23%. 78.6
Sharma et al, 45 UK and Canadan=977 (427 healthcare recipients; 550 providers) mental health service inpatients and outpatientsBoth groups were asked their preference for one of four terms: ‘client’, ‘patient’, ‘consumer’ and ‘survivor’ An ‘other’ option was also provided to allow survey respondents to provide other terms besides the four choices listed.Recipients: patient 54.8%, client 28.8, survivor 7%, other 5.9%, consumer 2.8%.85.7
Swift et al, 81 UK and Irelandn=145 mental health service outpatientsPatients were asked how the preferred to be addressed and how they tended to address doctors. They were asked to choose between being referred to as a patient, a client or a service user… Patient 74%, client 18%, service user 8.3%.85.7
Lloyd et al, 46 Australian=125 mental health service inpatients and outpatientsThe survey asked people to place a tick beside the term that they preferred. The choices were consumer, patient, client or other. Client 34%, consumer 28%, patient 23%, other (eg, ‘mate’, ‘person’, ‘member’, ‘friend’)15%.85.7
Mariotto et ali,14 Italyn=900 ambulatory care patients What, in your opinion, is the best way to define a person attending healthcare services? Patient, client, user or other (please specify)? Patient 61%, user 25%, client 9%, other 6%.50.0
Ramdass et al, 80 Trinidad and Tobagon=300 medical, surgical, gynaecological surgical and medical clinic outpatientsSubjects were asked their preference between the terms ‘patient’, ‘client, ‘customer’ or ‘other name’. Patients 80%, client 7%, customer 6%, other name 7%, no answer <1%.50.0
Baskett,75 UKn=200 gynaecology and antenatal clinic outpatients In attending this clinic which description do you prefer for yourself? (Choose one) Gynaecological: patient 68.5%, woman 24%, client 6.5%, consumer 0.5%, customer 0.5%.
Antenatal: patient 63.5%, mother 18%, pregnant woman 13.5%, woman 3%, client 2%, consumer 0%, customer 0%.
Denning et al, 26 Australian=705 antenatal clinic outpatientsThe survey form offered women the opportunity to rank their preferred three choices from the following options: client, consumer, customer, female, mother, patient, pregnant woman, woman or other (specify) as title options.Women: patient 22%, mother 16%, no response 13%, woman 12%, pregnant woman 10%, client 9%, female 8%, other 8%, customer 2%, consumer 0.5%.100.0
McGuire-Snieckus et al, 42 UKn=133 people in community mental health centres I would rather be addressed by a general practitioner as: (a) a patient; (b) a client; (c) a service user; (d) no preference. Preferred terms of address of the sample for each type of health professional:
General practitioner: patient 75%, client 17%, service user 7%, no preference 2%.
Psychiatrist: patient 67%, client 23%, service user 9%, no preference 2%.
Community psychiatric nurses: patient 47%, client 43%, service user 8%, no preference 2%.
Psychologist: patient 47%, client 44%, service user 10%, no preference 2%.
Occupational therapist: patient 44%, client 44%, service user 13%, no preference 2%.
Social worker: client 47%, patient 41%, service user 10%, no preference 2%.
Wittich et al, 83 USAn=211 obstetrics, gynaecology, family practice outpatients at army community hospital What would you like to be referred to as? Patient 84%, client 6%, healthcare consumer 4.6%, consumer 2.3%.71.4
Aukst-Margetić et al,32 Croatian=97 acute mental health service inpatients and outpatients Which of the following terms would you like us to use while talking to you during examination: patient, client, user, other? (translation) Patient 79.4%, users 13.4%, client 8.2%.91.7
Keaney et ali,77 UKn=271 substance misuser inpatients and outpatientsThe subject’s preferences to four choices of term (patient, client, service user or other) was determined, alongside exploration of their attitudes (to patient, client and service user) using a 5-point Likert scale, from 1, ‘strongly dislike’ to 5, ‘strongly like’. Patient 54%, client 41%, service user 5%.57.1
Deber et al,31 Canadan=1037 (202 breast cancer; 202 prostate disease; 202 fracture; 431 HIV/AIDS) clinic outpatientsRespondents were asked to indicate their view about being referred to as each of: patient, client, consumer, survivor, partner and customer.Breast: patient 0.39, survivor −0.38, client −0.41, partner −0.44, consumer −0.57, customer −0.69.
Prostate: patient 0.54, client −0.58, partner −0.63, consumer −0.67, survivor −0.69, customer −0.72.
Fracture: patient 0.50, client −0.45, partner −0.53, consumer −0.61, survivor −0.61, customer −0.67.
HIV: patient 0.48, client 0.03, partner −0.07, survivor −0.34, consumer −0.41, customer −0.49.
Covell et al,15 USAn=1827 mental health service outpatients Different people use different words to refer to people who have received mental health services; words like consumer, client, patient, ex-patient, survivor or some other description. What do you prefer to be called? Client 39%, patient 22%, consumer 16%, survivor 11%, other (including own name; person; human) 11% and ex-patient 1%, no answer 0.4%.78.6
Turner et al,82 UKn=219 allied health outpatients Do you prefer to be referred to as: patient, client or customer? Patient 67%, client 30%, customer 3%.91.7
Heffernan,63 UKn=24 welfare service usersDiscussion centred around two main topics: (i) current and historical terms used to refer to individuals who use(d) Health and Social Care
Services and how the participants felt about these terms and/or if they identified with these terms/groups and
(ii) service user involvement.
Client 42%, participant 25%, no preference 25%, service user 8%.58.3
Simmons et al, 29 UKn=336 mental health service outpatients Would you like a (name of discipline specified) to regard you as a service user, patient, client, survivor or user?
Please rank your order of preference for the term by which you would prefer a (name of discipline specified) to regard you as.
Like: patient 72.6%, client 43.1%, service user 22.6%, survivor 14.6%, user 13.4%.
Dislike: patient 11.1%, client 25.4%, service user 33.1%, survivor 45.1%, user 45.1%.
Ranking: patient, client, service user, user, survivor.
Anczewska et al,74 Polandn=1040 (634 healthcare recipients; 397 providers) mental health and social care outpatientsIts final version … included 14 terms referring to people with mental disorders and an open category ‘other—please let us know’. The participants were instructed to indicate as many preferred terms as they wished. Patient 76.2%, person using mental health services 25.1%, person receiving psychiatric treatment 22.4%, person with mental disorders 22.1%, person with mental problems 19.2%, person with the experience of mental crisis 19.1%, person mentally ill 15.5%, person with the experience of mental illness 15.1%, person with mental illness 14.5%, attendee 13.1%, mentally ill 11.5%, client 7.4%, beneficiary 5.2%, user 3.9%, other 3.8%.83.3
Dickens et al,27 UKn=100 mental health service outpatients Different people use different words to refer to people who are resident in a secure mental health service like St Andrew’s Healthcare; words like client,
consumer, patient and service user. What do you prefer to be called?
Patient 42%, client 20%, service user 17%, consumer 2%, other/none 19%.100.0
Thalitaya et al,16 UKn=106 mental health service inpatientsThe subjects were administered a questionnaire asking them: what they were currently being addressed as by members of staff? Their choice of terminology. Their preference was revisited after explaining the definition and meanings of the terms and ensuring that these were understood.Thought they were called: client 55%, patient 23%.
Self-preference: client 47%, patient 35%, customer/service user/consumer 4%.
When terms defined: patient 52%, client 23%.
Loudon et al,47 UKn=1428 sexual health service outpatients…men and women attending sexual health clinics were asked to select the preferred description from a list including ‘patient’, ‘client’, ‘customer’ or ‘user’.Recipients: patient 61%, no preference 23%, client 9%, customer 2%, user 2%.64.3
Sim et al,41 Irelandn=229 (132 healthcare recipients; 97 providers) mental health service inpatients and outpatients…individual preferences as to how attendees are referred to by mental health staff (patient/client/ service user); how attendees are addressed by mental health staff (first name/title and surname)…Recipients: first name 86%–91%, patient 46%–54%, no pref. 20%–25%, client 14%–17%, service user 11%–13%.92.9
Magnezi et al,48 Israeln=508 general practice outpatients A family doctor has different ways of approaching a person who comes for medical service. When you come to receive medical service from your family doctor, how do you feel s/he relates to you? Do you feel s/he approaches you mainly as: 1) a patient, 2) an insured person, 3) a friend/peer of the doctor, 4) a medical service consumer, 5) a client that deserves medical services or 6) a partner in the medical treatment.
How would you like the doctor to relate to you? 1) A patient, 2) an insured person, 3) a friend/peer of the doctor, 4) a medical service consumer, 5) a client that deserves medical services or
6) a partner in the medical treatment.
Actual case: patient 45.7%, friend 21.3%, business-type term (consumer/client/insured) 20.9%, partner 12.1%.
Preference: patient 40.0%, friend 28.6%, partner 18.4%, business-type term (consumer/client/insured) 13.1%.
Survivorship identity studies
Deimling et al, 85 USAn=50 community-based older adults who had had cancerRespondents were asked whether they identified as being: 1) a cancer victim, 2) a patient, 3) an ex-patient or 4) a survivor. Survivor 90%, ex-patient 60%, victim 30%, patient 22% (survivor only 64%, victim and survivor 26%, neither 8%, victim only 2%).83.3
Bellizzi and Blank,50 USAn=490 men with prostate cancer When you think about yourself in relation to your prostate cancer, which adjective or phrase best describes you: a patient, a victim, someone who has had prostate cancer, cancer survivor or cancer conqueror? Someone who has had cancer 56.8%, survivor 25.9%, patient 8.8%, cancer conqueror 6.2%, victim 0.6%.100.0
Deimling et al,54 USAn=321 people who had breast, prostate or colorectal cancer At this point in time, do you consider yourself to be: a cancer patient, an ex-cancer patient, a cancer victim or a cancer survivor? Survivor 86%, ex-patient 42%, victim 13%, patient 13%.64.3
Park et al,84 USAn=167 adults diagnosed with cancer When you think about yourself in relation to your cancer, how much does each of these phrases describe you? survivor 83%, someone with cancer 81%, patient 58%, victim 18% (percentages are for those who responded at least somewhat).100.0
Kelly et al,53 USAn=201 individuals with a personal history of cancerParticipants were asked if they considered themselves to be a cancer patient, a cancer victim, an ex-cancer patient, a cancer survivor or none of the above. None of the descriptors 70.5%, cancer survivor 22.5%, cancer patient 6%, ex-cancer patient 4%, cancer victim 2.5%.78.6
Chambers et al, 51 Australian=786 people diagnosed with cancer…a single question asked participants how they would describe themselves in relation to their bowel cancer with five possible options: a cancer patient; a cancer survivor; a cancer victim; a person who has had (or has) cancer or other. Cancer survivors 55.0%, persons who had had (or have) cancer 39.4%; cancer patients 1.4%, victims 1.2% (missing 3.0%).85.7
Morris et al, 52 Australia and USAStudy 1 n=514 men diagnosed with prostate cancer
Study 2 n=160 women diagnosed with breast cancer
When you think about yourself in relation to your cancer, which of the following phrases best describes you? Study 1: person who has/had cancer 53.1%, cancer survivor 35.0%, cancer patient 6.2%, victim 1.9%, other 2.1% (missing 1.7%).
Study 2: cancer survivor 44%, person who has/had cancer 42%, cancer patient 6%, cancer victim 2%, other 6%.
Cho and Park,55 USAn=133 (baseline) people diagnosed with cancer during late adolescence and young adulthood; n=88 1 year laterSix types of cancer-related identities were included: victim, patient, someone who has had cancer, survivor, cancer conqueror and member of the cancer community. Each identity was assessed as the extent to which it describes them from 0 (not at all) to 4 (very much).Baseline: someone who has had cancer 75.0%, member 59.2%, survivor 55.0%, patient 50.8%, cancer conqueror 35.0%, victim 6.7%.
One year: someone who has had cancer 77.4%, survivor 61.4%, member 56.6%, patient 44.0%, cancer conqueror 34.9%, victim 3.6% (percentages are for those who responded at least quite a bit).
  • *Text in the ’Question/Task description' column in italics indicates the specific wording of the question, whereas plain text indicates the description of the question provided by the article.