Dr. Richard Feldman: More clarity needed when identifying healthcare professionals | Columns

It is not uncommon that when my patients are seen, for example, at a specialist’s office or at an urgent care clinic, they return to my office without knowing precisely who provided their care.

I ask, “So, have you seen a doctor?” Or could it have been a physician assistant or nurse practitioner? »

“Well doc, I’m not exactly sure. The person looked like a doctor.

The above scenario is worrying. It must be perfectly clear to the patients who provide them with medical care. Patients can make their most informed healthcare decisions when this happens. And as a family physician, I can better assess the care provided and the medical decisions made when I know the credentials of the health professional. I am not saying that patients cannot obtain high quality medical care from various providers. But there is a difference between providers – especially compared to doctors – in terms of experience, education and training, depth of knowledge and amount of clinical experience.

Today, there is a multiplicity of healthcare professionals providing patient care. And there are various clinical settings a patient can choose from – retail and urgent care clinics, doctors’ offices, health care centers, emergency departments, and now virtually through telemedicine. Ideally, health care should be delivered using a physician-led team that maximizes the skills of each member, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners (APRNs), nurses, pharmacists, and psychologists; each adds to the collective quality of the care provided.

A recent study found that only half of patients surveyed felt it was easy to identify who is and who is not a doctor by reading marketing materials about the services offered, their title, credentials and details. ‘other qualifications.

In the clinical encounter, the same confusion prevails because clear disclosure of the type of health professional performing the service is not always adequately achieved. One in four Hoosiers don’t know if their usual supplier is a doctor. Eighty-five percent believe it is important to know about their health care provider’s training and education.

Groups of professional physicians in Indiana have formed the Indiana Physicians Coalition coordinated by the Indiana State Medical Association to address this uncertainty through public engagement and education as well as through legislation with legislators.

The Coalition is calling for legislation (HB1113, SB239) this session of the General Assembly to ensure greater clarity and transparency in identifying vendors. Marketing and advertising materials for medical services should clearly and prominently indicate the type of provider license (physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, chiropractor, optometrist, dentist, podiatrist, etc.). All providers must also be identified by a prominent sign in the office or clinic indicating their type of license. Providers engaged in direct patient care must wear a badge indicating their type of license and whether they are still in training. If the title “Doctor” is used, it must be associated with the type of license. Further changes to the law are needed to reserve medical specialist designations such as dermatologist, cardiologist, endocrinologist or anesthesiologist only to physicians (physicians and physicians).

Physician assistants and nurse practitioners can obtain an academic doctorate. But they should be prohibited from simply using the title “Doctor” when introducing themselves to patients during the clinical encounter. Patients especially confuse nurse practitioners and physician assistants for physicians. As soon as patients hear the word “doctor”, they usually assume the person is a doctor.

This bill respects all members of the healthcare team and the essential roles they play in providing the best quality care possible at Hoosiers while providing increased transparency for patients.

Dr. Richard Feldman is an Indianapolis physician and former Indiana State Health Commissioner.

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