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Rui Liu



Situating healthcare and healthcare consumers in retailing


  • Rui Liu

Summary, in English

When major retailers move into the healthcare market and establish new types of retailing format, such as retail clinics, healthcare is no longer far from the retailing arena. Meanwhile, the rhetoric shift from patients to healthcare consumers signals a change of strategy within publicly-funded healthcare and demands it to think about how their service should be packaged and delivered. It therefore is necessary to ask what accounts for a good healthcare service and whether retailing practices and ideology can provide some pointers for healthcare. Equally important is to understand what it means for individuals when they are addressed as consumers and how they nuance this social identity in the healthcare context.

This paper puts healthcare and its users into the retailing landscape, examining how a retailing space where health itself can be consumed as a commodity is legitimized and illustrating how individuals interpret their consumer identities in different social settings in the health markets. I conclude that, although retailing may not, and probably will not, be the ultimate remedy to an efficient healthcare, it offers a set of orders and rules that have been accepted and followed by a majority of individuals. While these individuals move across different spaces within retailing, they constantly negotiate with the social identities that are given by the society and adjust their behaviours accordingly. In this respect, healthcare consumer is a fluid and contested conception that is loaded with tensions between individual and collective values.


  • Department of Service Studies

Publishing year




Document type

Conference paper: abstract


  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Business Administration