Do you say “Physicians” or “Providers”?
"Providers" or "Physicians"?
Does your organization use the term providers or physicians? Why?
I am bringing this up because there is a fairly sizable percentage of physicians who are deeply offended by being called a provider, and you may want to be prepared when you run across them.
Roughly the argument goes something like this:.
"I spent 8-10 years in training and went $130,000 in debt to earn my right to practice medicine as a physician. I carry significant liability with every patient I see, and my scope of practice is vastly more complicated than other 'providers.' I have earned the right to be called a physician."
Large medical groups, such as the American Academy of Family Practice, also have formal statements against using the term providers for physicians. https://www.aafp.org/about/policies/all/provider-term-position.html
Roughly I would say that of about the 30-40% of the physicians who have thought about our imposed name change – it upsets about 95% of them.
How much does it upset them? Well, if you ever read a physician social media site such as Doximity, it probably elicits more negative reaction than any other single topic.
Is this an over-reaction? Perhaps. But consider this: if it's your child who has a subdural hemorrhage and needs immediate surgery – do you want them to see a "provider" or a "surgeon"? (Surgeons are particularly offended by being called "HCPs" :o))
Why organizations have chosen to use this term is interesting to consider. Superficially, the argument may be is it simplifies brochures, websites, social media, insurance firms, etc, and therefore it's simply part of the org Style Guide to make documentation easier.
At a slightly deeper level the term "provider" may have a more "democratizing" feel, and I think most leadership tend to justify the use of the term with words like "team" and camaderie, and everyone – nurse practitioners, physician assistants and physicians have equal value. Arguments which are reasonable as far as they go. ( As an aside, for certain things Nurse Practioners and PAs are indeed more profitable than physicians).
Anyway, I personally think there is something much deeper going on. I believe that along with the growth of technology and organizational size, there is an inevitable drift towards dehumanization, and the change of vocabulary from physician to provider has the same source as changing patients into "customers" (or even worse healthcare "consumers").
Incidentally, because I, myself, believe this drift is inevitable, I tend not to worry too much about the term provider, just as I tend not to worry about it raining in Seattle. It simply cannot be changed.
But for people who are in marketing and who occasionally are in a position to consider word choice, just be aware of potential derogatory nature of this word to some of your staff.
And one area of particular attention? Take a look at the terms you use on your recruiting page. Are you recruiting physicians or providers?