Find out what common terms are used and what they mean.


Find out what common terms are used and what they mean.

Who is a Health Consumer?

Health Consumers are people who use health services, as well as their family and carers. This includes people who have used a health service in the past or who could potentially use the service in the future.

A mother hugging her young boy

Why not use the term patient?

We prefer to use the term ‘consumers’ rather than ‘patients’. There are a few reasons behind this.

A ‘consumer’ tends to choose and get involved in decision making whereas traditionally a ‘patient’ tends to be a person who receives care without necessarily taking part in decision making.

Also the term ‘consumers’ includes carers who often have an important role in health care decision making and care giving. Finally many health programs and services don’t use the term ‘patient’ anyway and refer to ‘clients’ or even ‘residents’ (in the case of live-in facilities).

Who is a Health Consumer Representative?

A health consumer representative is a health consumer who has taken up a specific role to provide advice on behalf of consumers, with the overall aim of improving health care.

A consumer representative is often a consumer member of a committee, project or event who voices consumer perspectives and takes part in decision making on behalf of consumers. A health consumer representative may be nominated by and accountable to, a consumer organisation.

Usually the role is working with a health service (or consumer organisation) and is often in a volunteer capacity. Sometimes the role comes with a small payment to cover the consumer’s costs.

What is Engagement?

Engagement (or participation) refers to a range of activities that involve consumers or communities participating in and sometimes leading, health service decision-making; policy and service design; service delivery and evaluation.


NSW Health. “Consumer and Community Representative Selection – Guidelines”, NSW Health, 2005. Accessed 26 November 2014,

Gregory, J., “Conceptualising consumer engagement: A review of the literature”, Australian Institute of Health Policy Studies, Melbourne, Victoria, 2007.

Health Consumers Queensland. 2012. “Consumer and Community Engagement Framework”. Queensland Health, 2012. Accessed 13 October 2014,