Blog | Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Primary Care "Provider"

I am ashamed to admit that I actually felt annoyed tonight over being referred to as a "primary care provider." It is hard to explain that after 21 years of education and another 23 years of practice as a specialist in Internal Medicine, I would be bothered by this.

One of my patients that I have cared for for 20 years was admitted to the hospital after going to the ER with abdominal pain. I was not informed of his admission and the hospitalist became the attending physician. The patient called me today from his hospital bed to inform me. He actually had a previously scheduled appointment with me in the office today and, good patient that he is, was calling to say he couldn't make it. He assumed I already knew he was admitted to the hospital. I asked him to have the attending doctor call me as soon as he/she made rounds.

Fedex Man by Ed Yourdon via FlickrI got the call from a young-sounding hospitalist who did not know my name and wondered if I was the "primary care provider." When I replied that I was his physician, she then said, "Oh, I don't usually call the primary care provider." That phrase just stopped me cold. It is so "insurance" sounding. So contrived and replaceable. Primary care provider ... delivery man ... vacuum cleaner salesman ... Roto-Rooter man. It's the doctor you can dismiss if you are a hospitalist, one or two years out of training.

"I don't usually call the primary care provider."

Guess I better get thicker skin.

Toni Brayer, FACP, is an ACP Internist editorial board member who blogs at EverythingHealth, designed to address the rapid changes in science, medicine, health and healing in the 21st Century.