Doctor or Provider… What’s In a Name?

My last name is not easy to pronounce: ‘LOO-kher-EE-nee’. In fact, most of my patients now call me “Dr. Mike” in large part out of fear of embarrassment that they might slightly mispronounce my name and end up insulting me. Although I can now laugh with candor when hearing a new variation on the butchering of my name spoken for the first time by a new patient, I do remember being a child growing up in a Boston suburb, having to suffer through my friends calling me everything from “Mike Linguini” to “Michael Looney-Tuney” to “Cuckoo-Lucherini”. (Over time, however, I learned to appreciate the rhythm and musicality of the last example!) No matter… back then, it was all part of growing up and a rite of passage to adulthood that most of us have experienced, and, as expected, it has all gone away. But today, whether my patients choose to use my first name or my last name, they always accord to me the title of “Doctor” before they use it. In my profession, that’s the most important part anyway, right? “Doctor Mike”. I like it. And I earned it. Well, doctor, not so fast…

There is a rather insidious effort within the health insurance industry and certain government agencies, whether purposeful or unintentional, to diminish this most noble and well-earned title for most of us doctors in the healthcare industry. Among many administrators, policy-makers, lawyers and bureaucrats, it has been common within the last several decades to refer to doctors as providers. Providers? Let’s see… Like a church volunteer who spends his afternoon handing out socks to provide warmth to the homeless on a cold day? Or like a girl scout who provides assistance to an elderly man as he crosses the street? Or perhaps like a farmer who grows grain to provide wheat to the bakers who in turn provide bread for us to eat? Well then, if, in this broad sense, doctors, as well as church volunteers, girl scouts, farmers and bakers, are all considered providers of some definition and measure, why is it true that only we doctors are now routinely referred to as “Providers”? Beyond the possible explanations of political correctness, laziness and a genuine effort to insult or dehumanize doctors, I have never been able to understand the logic and reasoning behind this effort, which is now spilling over in large measure into the healthcare industry as well. The new reality is that a doctor, who is in the practice of medicine for his/her patients, is now considered by the health insurance companies and related government agencies to be, first and foremost, a provider of healthcare for their contracted clients. Help! Not only have I been insulted, I’ve been kidnapped!

Unlike the innocent, creative contortions and rhymes to which my last name was subject as a child, I find the subtle redefinition of my purpose in healthcare much less tolerable. I simply refuse to be called a Provider. I am a Doctor. And although I find myself with increasing frequency having to correct my colleagues (often in mid-conversation) in both the health insurance and healthcare industries, I’m glad to note that my patients still have, in overwhelming numbers, the courtesy and common sense to call me “Doctor Mike Lucherini” and not “Provider Mike Lucherini”… whether or not they mispronounce my name!

Michael J Lucherini MD MS

Dr. Lucherini specializes in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. He practices at Summit Medicine and Pediatrics in Mesa, AZ, and is a Pioneer in Direct Access Medicine. His opinions expressed herein are personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of his staff, his patients, or his colleagues.

© 2015 Summit Medicine and Pediatrics
All Rights Reserved

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