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A patient having his blood pressure taken by a doctor.

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

A patient is any person who receives medical attention, care, or treatment. The person is most often ill or injured and in need of treatment by a physician or other medical professional. Health consumer, health care consumer or client are other names for patient, usually used by governmental agencies, insurance companies, and/or patient groups (who may object to some implications of the word 'patient').


The word patient is derived from the Latin word patiens, the present participle of the deponent verb pati, meaning "one who endures" or "one who suffers".

Patient is also the adjective form of patience. Both senses of the word share a common origin.

In itself the definition of patient doesn't imply suffering or passivity but the role it describes is often associated with the definitions of the adjective form: enduring trying circumstances with even temper. Some have argued recently that the term should be dropped, because it underlines the inferior status of recipients of health care. [1]

Pediatric polysomnography patient at the
Children's Hospital in Saint Louis, USA


For them, "the active patient is a contradiction in terms, and it is the assumption underlying the passivity that is the most dangerous". Unfortunately none of the alternative terms seem to offer a better definition.

  • Client, whose Latin root cliens means "one who is obliged to make supplications to a powerful figure for material assistance", carries a sense of subservience.
  • Consumer suggest both a financial relationship and a particular social/political stance, implying that health care services operate exactly like all other commercial markets. Many reject that term on the grounds that consumerism is an individualistic concept that fails to capture the particularity of health care systems.

Outpatient vs inpatient

An outpatient is a patient who only comes to a hospital or doctor for diagnosis and/or therapy and then leaves again.

An inpatient on the other hand is 'admitted' to the hospital and stays overnight or for an indeterminate time, usually several days or weeks (though some cases, like coma patients, have stayed in hospitals for decades).

See also


  1. Neuberger, J. (1999). "Let's do away with "patients"". British Medical Journal. 318: 1756–8.

External links

cs:Pacient da:Patient de:Patient eu:Paziente id:Pasien he:חולה lv:Pacients nl:Patiënt qu:Hampina sk:Pacient fi:Potilas sv:Patient th:ผู้ป่วย

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