Medical profession

I Am a Doctor—Not a Health Care Provider

HOWARD FISCHER, MD
Wayne State University

Dr Fischer is professor of pediatrics at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. He is also co-chief of the division of general pediatrics and adolescent medicine in the Carman & Ann Adams department of pediatrics, Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

—Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871)

In February 2006, I wrote a Commentary for this journal titled Skeptical Sentiments, in which I described things that I did not trust; for example, “Doctors who refer to a child or baby as it.” My list of 20 items prompted readers to send in lists of things that they didn’t trust. One such item was “Parents who say their 2-year-old knows not to touch the stove.” From these responses, a list was compiled and published as More Skeptical Sentiments in August 2006.

Since then, I’ve had some time to think of more things I don’t like. One of these things is the disappearance of clear language. Here is a list of terms in danger of being replaced by jargon and other vagaries that I—and many other doctors—hear or read on a daily basis:

I am a doctor ... not a “health care provider.”

I belong to a profession … not an “industry.”

I see patients ... not “customers” or “clients.”

My patients have (or don’t have) medical problems … not “health issues.”

I give medical care … I do not create or produce a “product.”

I see pre-adolescent children … not “tweens.”

My patients are patients not “revenue streams” or “profit centers.”

I learned somewhere along the way that clear language reflects clear thinking. What kind of thinking is being reflected by the fuzzy (at best), business-flavored (at worst) language described above? 


Share Your Thoughts

Dr Fischer invites you to send him your list of things you don’t like. His email address is hfischer@dmc.org. Or you can add your list to his commentary online in “Post new comment” (see below).

The Editors