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Am Fam Physician. 2002;65(5):799

to the editor: I could not agree more with Dr. Taylor’s editorial1 on the use of the term “primary care provider,” or PCP. I am not quite sure what a PCP is, but it sounds like some sort of toxic substance.

As a residency program director in New Jersey for the past 15 years, I have been teaching residents, medical students, attending physicians, and, sadly, an occasional faculty member, that we are not providers or PCPs. I am currently semi-retired and teaching as a consultant in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School. In that role, I try to impress on the medical students and residents that the terms “provider” and “PCP” are artificial and somewhat pejorative labels invented by insurance companies and health maintenance organizations.

In addition, I am uncertain who the term “consumer” refers to with respect to the health care field. That person, or persons, is not the same as a patient and is certainly not the same as patients for whom we, as family physicians, act as not only physicians, but also advocates, interpreters, investigators, and, frequently, arbitrators and advisors in situations of conflicting opinions by various subspecialists.

I would hope that every program director in family medicine might take it on themselves to refuse to answer, or answer in the negative, any correspondence addressed to him or her as a “provider” or “PCP.”

editor’s note: Since the time that Dr. Taylor’s commentary was written, the 2001 American Academy of Family Physicians’ Congress of Delegates approved the following resolution, subject to approval by the Board of Directors: “That the American Academy of Family Physicians adopt as policy the principle that the term ‘provider’ is not to be used to refer to physicians, and be it further resolved that the AAFP develop a position paper that describes the Academy’s policy opposing use of the term “provider” and make it available to the membership for their use in resolving the issue locally, and be it further resolved that all groups will be encouraged to use the term ‘doctor’ or ‘physician’ when referring to physicians.”

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This series is coordinated by Kenny Lin, MD, MPH, deputy editor.

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