Should patients be viewed as customers? Is it appropriate to suggest that patients get in the driver's seat? If billboards are advertising joint replacement, lap band specials can be found on the internet, and you can find out if you're at increased risk for experiencing muscle pain while taking statins, and you can directly access these services without going through a gatekeeper, then I would suggest that to a large extent, you are at the very least being viewed as a customer by many health care manufacturers, doctors, and hospitals.
If so, who do you turn to know whether you should pursue any of these flyers left under your windshield wiper while you're getting the groceries? Or do you just throw them away? Wouldn't it be nice if there was a "consumer reports" to turn to? Interestingly, there is. Not only that, it helps you sift through the small print that you might have otherwise missed, like the part about what percentage of patients that pursue lap band surgery love it so much that they have the band removed. (about 1/3 need revision or removal of the band according to this reputable source).
Although Consumer Reports is great, let's see it for what it is--a great map to have in your glove compartment. But to figure out the best destination, make sure you have a primary care physician in the passenger seat that you enjoy talking to and will help you figure out which destination makes the most sense.