One of the most malignant threats that is adversely impacting physicians is the insidious metastasis of the term “provider” within the national health care system over the past 2 to 3 decades.
This demeaning adjective is outrageously inappropriate and beneath the stature of medical doctors (MDs) who sacrificed 12 to 15 years of their lives in college, medical schools, residency programs, and post-residency fellowships to become physicians, specialists, and subspecialists. It is distressing to see hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, insurance corporations, and managed care companies refer to psychiatrists and other physicians as “providers.” It is time to fight back and restore our noble medical identity, which society has always respected and appreciated.
Our unique professional identify is at stake. We do not want to be lumped with nonphysicians as if we are interchangeable parts of a health care system or cogs in a wheel. No other mental health professional has the extensive training, scientific knowledge, clinical expertise, research accomplishments, and teaching/supervisory abilities that physicians have. We strongly uphold the sacred tenet of the physician-patient relationship, and adamantly reject its corruption into a provider-consumer transaction.
Even plumbers and electricians are not referred to as “providers.” Lawyers are not called legal aid providers. Teachers are not called knowledge providers, and administrators and CEOs are not called management providers. So why should physicians in any specialty, including psychiatry, obsequiously accept the denigration of their esteemed medical identify into the vague, amorphous ipseity of a “provider”? Family physicians, internists, and pediatricians used to be called primary care physicians, but have been reduced to primary care providers, which is insulting and degrading to these highly trained MD specialists.
The corruption and debasement of the professional identify of physicians and the propagation of the usage of the belittling term “provider” can be traced back to 3 entities:
1. The Nazi Third Reich. This is the most evil origin of the term “provider,” inflicted on Jewish physicians as part of the despicable persecution of German Jews in the 1930s. The Nazis decided to deprive pediatricians of being called physicians (“Arzt” in German) and forcefully relabeled them as “behandlers” or “providers,” thus erasing their noble medical identity.1 In 1933, all Jewish pediatricians were expelled or forced to resign from the German Society of Pediatrics and were no longer allowed to be called doctors. This deliberate and systematic humiliation of pediatric clinicians and scientists was followed by deporting the lowly “providers” to concentration camps. So why perpetuate this pernicious Nazi terminology?
2. The Federal Government. The term “provider” was introduced and propagated in Public Law 93-641 titled “The National Health Planning and Resource Development Act of 1974.” In that document, patients were referred to as “consumers” and physicians as “providers” (this term was used 19 times in that law). At that time, the civil service employees who drafted the law that marginalized physicians by using generic, nonmedical nomenclature may not have realized the dire consequences of relabeling physicians as “providers.”
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