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“The new patient”: the emergence of a political persona

Kirstine Zinck Pedersen (Department of Organization, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark)
Peter Kjær (Roskilde Universitet, Roskilde, Denmark)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 9 January 2017




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.



The authors are thankful to Paul du Gay who was involved in an earlier version of the paper and who has inspired the outcome.


Pedersen, K.Z. and Kjær, P. (2017), "“The new patient”: the emergence of a political persona", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 85-98.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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