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May 3, 2016

Eliminating the Term Primary Care “Provider”: Consequences of Language for the Future of Primary Care

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of General Internal Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2016;315(17):1833-1834. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.2329

The term “provider” first appeared in the modern health care lexicon as a shorthand referring to delivery entities such as group practices, hospitals, and networks. More recently, its use has expanded to encompass physicians, nurse practitioners (NPs), physician assistants (PAs), and perhaps others, especially those engaged in delivery of primary care.1 On one level, this expansion is both logical and convenient, as it reflects the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to modern primary care delivery, extending beyond the traditional dyad of patient and physician.2-4 Being designated as a “primary care provider” also denotes qualifying for payment of services rendered,1 a designation long sought and highly valued by advanced-practice nurses and PAs.3 Although useful in these contexts, the term “provider” has the potential for adverse consequences for primary care, calling into question the wisdom of its expanded use.

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