We are in the midst of an economic crisis, and efforts to reform the health care system have centered on controlling spiraling costs.To that end, many economists and policy planners have proposed that patient care should be industrialized and standardized.Marketplace and industrial terms may be useful to economists, but this vocabulary should not redefine our profession.
Furthermore, the term “provider” is deliberately and strikingly generic, designating no specific role or type or level of expertise.
Each medical professional — doctor, nurse, physical therapist, social worker, and more — has specialized training and skills that are not recognized by the all-purpose term “provider,” which carries no resonance of professionalism.
During our first year of medical school, we spent countless hours learning new words, memorizing vocabulary as if we were studying a foreign language.
We discovered that some words that sounded foreign actually represented the familiar: rubeola was measles, pruritus meant itching.
The consumer or customer is the buyer, and the provider is the vendor or seller.
To be sure, there is a financial aspect to clinical care.A customer or consumer is guided by “caveat emptor” — “let the buyer beware” — an adversarial injunction and hardly a sentiment that fosters the atmosphere of trust so central to the relationship between doctor or nurse and patient.Reducing medicine to economics makes a mockery of the bond between the healer and the sick.“Provider” also signals that care is fundamentally a prepackaged commodity on a shelf that is “provided” to the “consumer,” rather than something personalized and dynamic, crafted by skilled professionals and tailored to the individual patient.Business is geared toward the bottom line: making money.Now some prominent health policy planners and even physicians contend that clinical care should essentially be a matter of following operating manuals containing preset guidelines, like factory blueprints, written by experts.