Time to call physicians who they are: doctors--not providers

Shakespeare once asked, "What's in a name?"

Indeed, one doctor is asking the same question. In a commentary published by the JAMA Network. Allan H. Goroll, M.D,, of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, says it's time to stop referring to doctors, nurse practitioners (NPs), physician assistants (PAs) and other members of the healthcare team, by the term "providers."

The term can just create confusion and has the potential for adverse consequences for primary care, Goroll writes.

For patients, getting to the right primary care team member can be a problem if all practitioners are designated as "providers," he says. In fact, these healthcare professionals have different training, knowledge and clinical experience. Under the patient-centered medical home, team members have different roles and responsibilities based on their specific competencies, he says. If everyone is called provider, patients may be mismatched with a "provider" who may miss early signs of a serious illness, or prematurely order expensive tests or make a referral to a specialist. This can affect both patient safety and cost-effectiveness, Goroll says.

Labeling primary care doctors as "providers" also doesn't encourage physicians to choose a career in primary care, adding to the existing shortage, he writes. As FiercePracticeManagement has previously reported, there is already a physician shortage in primary care, which has created a lack of access in rural areas of the country. As a result, NPs and PAs have taken on a greater role in increasing primary care access to patients.

To learn more:
- read the commentary