Why do we refer to our doctors as "providers"?
I recently have begun to notice how frequently people refer to their doctor, whatever their specialty, as their "provider", as in "my provider gave me this" or my provider suggested that" or whatever. I wondered why many people use this term rather than using the word doctor, or even more pertinently, neurologist, pcp, osteopath, oncologist, etc. So I went to the magic book of answers, aka the internet, to find out what was going on. I was somewhat surprised to find that there were some good articles on the subject.
I will summarize up front what this discussion is really about with a quote from an excellent article from Forbes, linked here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2019/05/05/time-to-stop-labeling-physicians-as-providers/#5a811396118e
Here is the quote:
"The word 'doctor' is over 2,000 years old, aptly derived from the Latin doctus, meaning to teach or instruct. 'Physician' was used traditionally to describe a medical doctor." By contrast, "health care provider" hasn't really been around longer than the term "Happy Meal." Dhand and Carbone further emphasized that "The word 'provider' is a non-specific and nondescript term that confers little meaning." It doesn't really tell patients or anyone what specifically they will be getting. Besides, is the word physician or medical doctor really that difficult to say?
end of quote
In another article, linked here: https://www.nishamehtamd.com/single-post/Why-WOULD-You-Call-a-Physician-a-Provider a doctor says this:
"Ultimately, the most pressing arguments for not calling physicians providers aren’t about ego, though so many physicians are (in my mind, rightfully) demoralized by the term, and physician burnout does have implications on the national level. We should be emphasizing each member of the healthcare team’s strengths, and downplaying a physicians’ level of education does not help the patient. Who does it help? Insurance companies and hospital administrators with a vested monetary interest in cutting physician compensation."
Here is quote from another doctor, from this article: https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/practices/call-a-doctor-a-doctor-provider-persists-jennifer-weiss
"The term was adopted by federal law in the early 1970s and by its definition can include everyone from a doctor of medicine or osteopathy to a nurse practitioner or clinical social worker.
It’s not just doctors who should be bothered by the term, Weiss says, arguing there is nothing “mid-level” about a so-called mid-level provider who works long shifts and takes care of sick patients.
“The whole term (any way you put it) doesn’t work and needs to be changed,” she says. “…Why is anyone on a medical staff still being termed “provider” if we know that titles matter, are used to accurately reflect a person’s role within a company and lead to better overall engagement in the workplace? It’s not only nonsensical, but it’s also detrimental,” she says."
And the last doctor I will quote is from this article: https://suneeldhand.com/2015/09/29/lets-stop-all-this-provider-stuff/
The issue is with the term “Provider” and how a group of highly trained physicians who have in most cases spent well over a decade in training have allowed themselves to be grouped under this umbrella term. Why does this matter? Well, there’s a lot in a name. Can you imagine another group of professionals—whether they be attorneys, accountants or dentists—allowing themselves to be lumped together under terms like “Legal Provider”, “Finance Provider” or “Dental Care Provider”? Unlikely. It’s so non-specific, and is used almost anywhere including referring to “Cable TV providers”, “Electricity providers” or “Telephone providers”! It’s a pattern in life that if you want to lower the power and clout of a group of people, start first by changing what you call them, and replace a respected title with a murky one.
I think it's not helping doctors, patients or the doctor-patient relationship for doctors, whatever their specialty, to be lumped under the term "provider" as if they are simply a drug dispensary person. It seems to me like the term provider is a devaluing term, and the last thing we want our doctors to feel is devalued. A demoralized doctor is a less helpful doctor.
I encourage anyone interested to review some of these articles or others that exist.
Thanks much, Hank