Do you like being called a provider?

While the term has long been used to designate entities which could receive Medicare reimbursement, it could offend dedicated health professionals.

Provider has become the catchall term for nearly any person or entity that can claim Medicare reimbursement, but it could be too impersonal for some skilled professionals.

In an opinion piece for JAMA, John W. Beasley, MD; Richard G. Roberts, MD, JD; and Allan H. Goroll, MD, note that the term comes more from the world of commerce and doesn’t reference the physician’s professionalism or therapeutic relationships with the patients.

As the author’s write in the piece: “… When used to designate those who care for patients, provider has the potential to suggest that patients are mere consumers, serviced without commitment to professionalism. This could foster distrust in the health care delivery system, which is an emerging problem. Most patients do not want to be seen as consumers. While some contend that patients might be empowered and well-served by acting as consumers who can ‘shop around,’ this is not what patients report they want, especially in primary care, where the ongoing relationship with a trusted individual professional is a critical part of perceived quality.”

The authors say that the term is confusing for both healthcare professionals and patients as it is not clear whether it refers to an individual or an entity:

… At the patient and family levels, it leaves unclear who is caring for them and what are their roles, responsibilities, and competencies. Compare and contrast this with the requirements of the clinical teaching setting in which the designations and roles of all participants (attending, resident, student) are clearly specified.”

You can read the whole piece here.