“The New Patient”: The Emergence of a Political Persona

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The purpose of this paper is to explore how the patient comes to be seen as a solution to governance problems.
The paper studies health policy discourse in Denmark from 1970 to 2000. Based on an analysis of national policy documents, the paper traces how the patient is redefined as part of governance problems.
The paper suggests that “the new patient” coincides with changes in healthcare governance and is not just a clinical concern. The persona of the patient has been mobilized in dissimilar ways in addressing specific policy problems, resulting in both a duty-based idea of a socio-economically responsible patient and a rights-based idea of a demanding health-service consumer.
Research limitations/implications:
The study is limited to policy documents that address healthcare governance in one country. It does not describe the broader evolution of patient ideas or the practical impact of political discourses.
Practical implications:
Practitioners should expect to encounter conflicting views of patient responsibilities, interests and involvement. Such conflicts are not only related to a lack of conceptual clarity but are indicative of how the new, active and responsible patient has become a key clinical concern and a central element of health policy governance.
The paper contributes to the understanding of “the new patient” in discussions on patient-centred healthcare and empowerment by emphasizing the definition of the patient in a political context. The latter has often been ignored in existing research.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Public Sector Management
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)85-98
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Denmark
  • Governance
  • Patient-centred care
  • Health policy discourse
  • Patient roles

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