Designing patient-centered consumer health informatics (CHI) applications requires understanding and creating alignment with patients’ and their family members’ health-related activities, referred to here as ‘patient work’. A patient work approach to CHI draws on medical social science and human factors engineering models and simultaneously attends to patients, their family members, activities, and context. A patient work approach extends existing approaches to CHI design that are responsive to patients’ biomedical realities and personal skills and behaviors. It focuses on the embeddedness of patients’ health management in larger processes and contexts and prioritizes patients’ perspectives on illness management. Future research is required to advance (1) theories of patient work, (2) methods for assessing patient work, and (3) techniques for translating knowledge of patient work into CHI application design. Advancing a patient work approach within CHI is integral to developing and deploying consumer-facing technologies that are integrated with patients’ everyday lives.