Thursday, April 18, 2013

Who’s Your Doctor?

The title of doctor is ambiguous to many Americans. With the rapid increase in the number of health care titles employing the word “doctor,” patients often are confused about the training and the education of the person providing their care. Most people believe a doctor is the same as a physician: a health care practitioner who takes four years of medical or osteopathic medical school followed by three to seven years of additional training, known as residencies and fellowships. However many nonphysicians also earn advanced degrees, and now use the title “doctor,” though their time spent in training is often significantly less than that of physicians. According to a 2010 survey by the American Medical Association, a majority of respondents believe certain health professionals like dentists (69 percent), podiatrists (68 percent), and optometrists (54 percent) are medical doctors when in fact they are not.

Patients deserve to know who is providing their care, and two similar bills making their way through the Texas legislature help clear up the confusion. Authored by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) and Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), the bills require all health providers in hospitals to wear photo ID badges clearly stating their name, license, and level of training and education. By clarifying the specific training of all medical professionals, the legislation ensures there is less confusion in providing appropriate care and gives patients the information they need to make informed decisions about their health care.

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