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Is It Time to Re-Think How We Label Medical Professionals?


The roles of just about every healthcare worker have changed in recent years. Is it time to change the terms we use to identify these roles?

There has been a lot of chatter about who should be called what in the changing world of Sick Care. This is more than just parsing words, since words have meaning and create an emotional response. Roles have changed for all Sick Care stakeholders, and consequently, so have what we call them.

There are many players on the Sick Care stage so the dramatis personnae extend much beyond patients, consumers, and customers. Indeed, there are many non-physician healthcare professionals and how they are named says as much about the namer as the namee. For example, should a nurse practitioner be called an Advanced Practice Professional (APP) or a Non-Physician Provider (NPP) along with the connotation of each moniker-advanced nurse or not a real doctor?

Medical doctors i.e. physican and surgeons, push back and resent being called providers and producers. They see the former as trivializing their professional qualifications and training and the sacrifices made when compared to other healthcare professionals and the latter reduces them to cash cow cogs in the corporate wheel.

Some think this is all about petulant, egotistical doctors struggling to maintain their respected place in the hierarchy in the face of increasing dis-ease. But, naming and scope of practice creep is much more than just an exercise in professional pride or hubris. Instead, it is an exercise in branding and repurposing in an increasingly competitive market and it is intensifying internecine turf wars and land grabs for shelf space in the ever-congested Sick Care store offering products and services. The practical reality is that what you are called determines how much independence you have, your competitive power, how much supervision you need and how much you get paid.

Finally, we are creating jobs at a rapid clip that don't yet have formal job titles. For example, what should we call all those people with PhDs in the background crunching your data? Data doctors? Color-coded care might be closer than we think.

Many years ago, Alvin Toffler predicted the creation of "prosumers," a combination of producers and consumers working together to produce things that have the maximum value.

Maybe someday we will all be prosumers, working together. When that happens, I don't care if you call me a banana. I've been called a lot worse in 40 years of practice. Just don't call me a producer.

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