With a combination of medical jargon, abbreviations, and acronyms, it’s all too common for patients to be left in the dark about their health care treatment. That’s why the term ‘alphabet soup’ is often used to describe professional titles in the field of medicine.

If patients are not aware of the role their provider plays in the treatment process, they are more likely to disconnect from the care they receive and may even be fearful of receiving care. Many patients may also shy away from asking questions due to not wanting to slow down the treatment process or burden an already busy provider.

However, the evidence shows that patients do feel more comfortable with physician-led care. One study found that 84% of patients prefer to have a physician in charge of diagnosing and managing their health. With this number being so high, it’s clearly important for patients to know exactly who on their team does what. This will make patients feel more at ease, better informed, and reassured that they are playing an active role in their care.

There are many steps providers, and provider networks can take to ensure this outcome. Providers who hold doctorate degrees (for example, doctors of nursing or doctors of physical therapy) should first clarify that they have a doctorate degree in a field other than medicine. Then, clinicians can explain how their work differs from that of a medical doctor. 

While it may seem to discount the provider’s work, it’s important to prioritize patient education. For this reason, it may be easier for patients to understand if the clinician emphasizes what they cannot do first. Providers can then say it’s best to talk to their medical doctor (then identify that person by name) for questions related to diagnoses, prescriptions, surgery, or other medical procedures.

Provider networks should emphasize the importance of all clinicians introducing themselves to patients before an encounter. Before any testing or treatment, it’s considered best practice for clinicians to introduce themselves, explain their role, and field any questions a patient may have. This will not only put a patient’s mind at ease, but it also helps establish a greater patient-provider connection and increases care outcomes across the continuum.

Organizations throughout a provider network can help remedy this problem by offering in-services and other forms of education to providers on each clinician’s role. There is an especially significant amount of role confusion among nursing providers, since there are several titles in that field. This is a great area to start, but the most effective education will cover all providers in the medical field.

While most clinicians should ideally have a thorough understanding of their own scope of practice, they may not be aware of the part that other providers play. If providers know more about the role of everyone on the care team, they can not only better answer a patient’s questions, but they will also be able to point patients in the right direction if they are unable to meet their needs.

If you want to strengthen or build your provider network to ensure better patient outcomes across the continuum of care, reach out to TOG Network Solutions for a consultation.