Healthcare vs Selfcare

I am a doctoral student at a medical university, but I am also a patient. What does the concept “patient” really mean? When is a person a “patient” and when is he/she something else?

The word “patient” is derived from the Latin word “patiens” and the original meaning is “one who suffers”. In the current version, the word also comprises the context in which the “patient” finds him/herself, meaning that a “patient” is someone who seeks help from a care provider or a helper for some kind of health issue. If the person with the health issue does not have a helper, he/she is not a “patient” but “only” ill.

This definition got me thinking… So a person with an illness is really only a “patient” in the context of healthcare… Which brings me to the strange picture in the beginning of this post. The picture consists of 8766 circles, each representing one hour and together they make up the number of hours in a year.

I visit my neurologist once or twice a year, about 30 minutes each time in the care for my Parkinson’s. That is one hour each year in healthcare for my chronic disease. If you look very closely at the picture, you might see that one of the circles is of another colour than the rest. That orange circle symbolises the time I spend in healthcare every year for my neurological disease. And the rest of the circles, all 8765 of them, each symbolises one hour I spend practicing selfcare.

In my mind the relationship 1:8765 raises two questions:

  • When will we see even a fraction of the resources being spent on improving the one hour of healthcare being invested in supporting selfcare in chronic diseases?
  • What to call ourselves when we are spending time in selfcare? 

All suggestions and answers are welcome!


If you want to use the picture, please feel free to download it from this post.


  1. what a truly wise way of looking at disease. If we only spent another fraction of a circle in our lives in being patients, the problem would be solved…When will our health care providers realize this and change the policies so that people with parkinsons can spend the quality of their life being with the ones they love rather than spending the last few productive years working so they can retire at 65.

    1. Thank you debbie for your comment and please forgive me for reacting unreasonably late to your post! I also want to fill in that for people getting diagnosed with PD at age 40 or 50, quality of life can also be to be able to have an optimal treatment to be able to work as long as possible.

  2. This is brilliant! Not only because it puts the health care sector’s importance in the life of their patients in perspective. But also also because it illustrates the importance encouraging the patients to engage themselves much more into their own treatment and well-being. This sounds silly, but too many of us are fostered to think that our health is the responsibility of our doctor.

    1. Henrik, not silly at all! Humans are naturally lazy, if someone else tells us that they will take care of things for us, and we trust them enough to feel comfortable, we gladly resign the responsibility… But we have A LOT to gain from being more active!
      (Apologies for not responding sooner…)

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