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By Richard K. Thomas

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42 Chapter 4 The Rise of Consumerism By the end of the 1970s, a reaction to this approach to doctor-patient relationships had emerged. Some refer to it as the “patient education movement’’; others see it within a broader context of “consumerism’’that affected other institutions in the society besides healthcare. This movement partly reflected the growth in knowledge about the nature of the healthcare system and its effectiveness, and contributed to the mounting criticism of the healthcare system and its operation.

1 New Sources of Health Information Traditionally, healthcare consumers have had access to two primary sources of information on healthcare—one informal and one formal. The primary source of health information historically has been friends, relatives, neighbors and work associates, individuals who can be informally accessed for information. Thus, based on their own experiences and information they have gathered, these associates could offer insights into various providers and services. The formal source that may be somewhat less common but more authoritative is physicians and other health personnel.

Intergenerational communication was critical in the passing on of the accumulated knowledge of folk medicine to subsequent generations. Even in the early twentieth century few people had occasion to use doctors. Few physicians were available, and those that were lacked the type of training we take for granted today. There was no dominant medical paradigm and, in a democratic society, any man’s medicine was as good as the next one’s. In actually, those who passed for “doctors’’ in those days had little in the way of knowledge, tools, or skills when it came to most of the conditions that existed within the population.

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