I’m a Customer-Owner, What Does That Mean?

No matter the age, education is a part of the care relationship at SCF.

Establishment of SCF’s Nuka System of Care involved a wide variety of changes; however, there are two primary elements that emerged: customer-ownership and relationships. Customer-ownership represents a paradigm shift in the way SCF approaches health care.

With the implementation of the Nuka System of Care, the Alaska Native and American Indian people who SCF serves were no longer referred to as “patients;” instead they were and are referred to as customer-owners. Patient as a term implies a passive participant in the health care process, one who waits for doctors to make decisions about health issues. The alternative, customer-owner, empowers those receiving care to be customers, owners of their own health, and owners of the care system by providing feedback that will guide future improvement.

There is more to this shift than a change in nomenclature; it signifies a substantial change in the relationship between customer-owners and care providers. Instead of providers diagnosing the patient’s illnesses and prescribing treatment, SCF’s providers work together, in relationship, with customer-owners to help them achieve overall wellness — rather than just addressing medical problems as they arise. This change provides a foundation that supports the shift away from disease-based health care delivery to a customer-owner centric delivery of care.

SCF’s focus on relationships recognizes that in most cases, individuals have more control over their health outcomes than providers do. When providers build strong relationships with customer-owners, it helps providers better understand the health issues, social factors and family history the customer-owners are facing, and gives them the opportunity to help them make healthier choices in their lives.

by Tikaan Galbreath

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