Conceptions of Patients and Their Roles in Healthcare: Insights from Everyday Practice and Service Improvement

Aoife M. McDermott, Anne Reff Pedersen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Purpose: – The purpose of this paper is two-fold. First, it sets the context for the special issue by considering conceptions of patients and their roles in service delivery and improvement. Second, it introduces the contributions to the special issue, and identifies thematic resonance.
Design/methodology/approach: – The paper utilises a literature synthesis and thematic analysis of the special issue submissions. These emanated from the Ninth International Organisational Behaviour in Healthcare Conference, hosted by Copenhagen Business School on behalf of the Learned Society for Studies in Organizing Healthcare.
Findings:– The articles evidence a range of perspectives on patients’ roles in healthcare. These range from their being subject to, a mobilising focus for, and active participants in service delivery and improvement. Building upon the potential patient roles identified, this editorial develops five “ideal type” patient positions in healthcare delivery and improvement. These recognise that patients’ engagement with health care services is influenced both by personal characteristics and circumstances, which affect patients’ openness to engaging with health services, as well as the opportunities afforded to patients to engage, by organisations and their employees.
Originality/value: – The paper explores the relationally embedded nature of patient involvement in healthcare, inherent in the interdependence between patient and providers’ roles. The typology aims to prompt discussion regarding the conceptualisation patients’ roles in healthcare organisations, and the individual, employee, organisational and contextual factors that may help and hinder their involvement in service delivery and improvement. The authors close by noting four areas meriting further research attention, and potentially useful theoretical lenses.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Health, Organization and Management
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)194-206
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Healthcare
  • Patients
  • Service delivery
  • Improvement
  • Service recipients
  • Organizational behaviour
  • Roles in healthcare

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