A health care consumer is anyone who uses, has used, or may use any health or health related service. It is not limited to those currently using a service. The terms "patients" and "users" generally apply only to those currently undergoing some form of treatment.
Consumers contribute in unique ways to the discussions around health care service provision because their focus and background differs from that of health service providers and medical practitioners.
Health consumers accrue experience of the health care system simply by going about their daily lives. Consumers have dealings with GPs, surgeons, oncologists, haemotologists, physiotherapists, nurse practitioners and a range of other specialists.
A 1998 Consumer Focus Collaboration discussed the importance of involving health consumers in decision-making about their own health care, asserting that the consumer contribution "cannot be overlooked [because] they have walked the walk."