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Do You Serve Clients? or PATIENTS?

What is a "Client?"

/ˈklīənt/
 A person or organization using the services of a lawyer or other professional person or company.
—Oxford Dictionary 

What is a "Patient?"

/ˈpāSHənt/
A person receiving or registered to receive medical treatment.
—Oxford Dictionary

Many centers use the term “client” to refer to the women facing an unplanned pregnancy that come in seeking free resources and abortion alternatives. It feels professional. Credible. Impartial. (And utterly non-medical!)

In fact, walk through any other medical practice—Urgent Care, Dentist, Optometrist—even Physical Therapy—and you’ll find they don’t work with “clients”. They work with “patients”.

Why? Because credible medical institutions work with patients. There is a medical need and they fulfill that medical need.

Am I a Baby Closet or a Women’s Health Clinic?

To decide whether you ought to be referring to your visitors as clients or patients, first consider your target audience and services offered.

A Baby Closet refers to any organization whose primary service is to provide free material resources to women with babies, including:

    • Pregnancy tests (retail brands)
    • Amateur volunteer counseling
    • Diapers
    • Wipes
    • Diaper cream
    • Baby clothes
    • Maternity clothes
    • Strollers
    • Cribs

A Women’s Health Clinic has a very different, complimentary set of services that may include the above but doesn’t have to. Primary indications would be services like:

    • Lab certified pregnancy testing under a qualified doctor or nurse practitioner
    • Ultrasound
    • Certified professional counseling
    • Viability testing
    • Screening for ectopic pregnancy
    • Abortion pill reversal
    • STI/STD testing
    • STI/STD treatment

It is common for an organization to begin like a pregnancy center, but ultimately to end up more like a women’s health clinic as they add services and expand over time. This is a natural progression that better reaches the abortion-vulnerable demographic, which is generally the primary target audience of organizations like yours!

So, to reiterate the question: do you serve clients or patients?

If you are like most centers, odds are that you serve a little bit of both. Even medical organizations will sometimes bring in clients. They receive amateur counseling, grab a few packs of diapers, and you’ll never see them again. These is generally what we call the “carry client”, or those who never had any intention of aborting. While it can be kind to serve these people as well, it is generally not the primary target audience of organizations like yours.

Since your fundraising is generally around the idea of saving lives from abortion, it is important to maintain proper focus on the abortion-vulnerable demographic. These are your medical clients, better termed as “patients”. They are receiving medical services like ultrasound so they can see the humanity of their baby. Perhaps they were brought in initially for STI testing, which helped establish trust and made them decide to come back when facing unplanned pregnancy.

This is not a legal document and I am not a lawyer, but it is important to consult with your lawyer about the potential legal ramifications of this distinction as well. HIPPA and other rules may apply differently, and certain software or platforms may be quite acceptable for one but not for the other.

Hopefully by this point, it has become clear who you serve.

I’ll leave you with this to consider—does your current internal and marketing terminology match who you actually serve?

 

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