Provider Transparency - Tell It Like It Is

March 2, 2011

To help alleviate patient confusion in the healthcare marketplace, Reps. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) and David Scott (D-Ga.) recently introduced the Health Care Truth and Transparency Act.

Have you noticed that doctors aren’t the only staff members who wear white coats anymore? There are physician assistants, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, techs, and a myriad other staff members at any given hospital who also wear white lab coats which look strikingly similar to ours. 

Years ago, the white coat was synonymous with physician. The length of the coat was a symbol of accomplishment. Now it seems like just about anybody can get one, short or long.

So if everyone is dressed alike, how do patients know who is who? Apparently, they don’t. According to the AMA, “A nationwide survey conducted in 2008 found that there is increasing patient confusion about the types of health care providers they see during a medical visit.” I encounter this on a regular basis as I frequently am speaking to someone who confuses a nurse practitioner or physician assistant for an MD or DO.

Patients are not happy with this false advertisement. “More than 90 percent of those surveyed said that they want accurate information about who is providing their care,” the AMA said.

To help alleviate patient confusion in the healthcare marketplace, Reps. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) and David Scott (D-Ga.) recently introduced the Health Care Truth and Transparency Act. “The legislation aims to ensure that all health care professionals fully and accurately inform patients of their qualifications and training,” according to the AMA. Any misrepresentation of one’s level of training to a patient, whether it be during an office visit or advertisement, would be a violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act. The bill goes as far as requiring that providers wear a name tag with their qualifications in large print.

“Patients deserve to know who is providing their care, and the Healthcare Truth and Transparency Act will help empower them with the knowledge they need to make an informed decision about who delivers their medical care,” AMA President J. James Rohack, MD, said in a press release.

At a time when many of us cannot keep straight who is who in the hospital, we have to realize that it is even more frustrating for patients who are tired from being kept up all night by constant intrusions and obviously sick if their insurance company is paying for a hospital stay. As patient advocates, we need to take action to show our dedication to providing the best possible care. I hope that you will join me in supporting this legislation in whatever way you can.

For more information, check out this resource from the American Society of Anethesiologists.