Addressing Patient Confusion in the Health Care Marketplace


Many types of health care professionals provide care to patients within the U.S. health care system.   However, differentiating among the qualifications of various health care providers can be difficult to do.  Complicating things even further are the numerous health professionals who are now earning doctorate degrees including: chiropractors, podiatrists, nurses, audiologists, physical therapists and naturopaths.  However, questions and concerns have been raised regarding these professionals referring to themselves as “doctor” in the health care setting.

Confusion among consumers about who is qualified to provide specific patient care undermines the reliability of the health care system. A 2008 survey conducted by Global Strategies demonstrated that consumers are indeed confused.  For example, 54% of consumers surveyed thought optometrists were medical doctors.

Legislation has been introduced at both the state and federal levels that would prohibit misleading and deceptive advertising in the provision of health care services and require health care providers to identify the license that they are practicing under. The goal of this legislation is to provide consumers with the information they need to make informed health care decisions.  A coalition of 14 medical associations, including the American Medical Association, have announced their support for HR 5295 The Health Care Truth and Transparency Act, which would prohibit deceptive advertising by health care providers.  The American Nurses Association opposes the Healthcare Truth and Transparency Act as “an unnecessary and dangerous imposition of trade restrictions on nursing practice.”

As advocates for the health of the public, we agree with the bill’s sponsor, Representative Sullivan, who stated that, “H.R. 5295 simply holds all health care providers to the same truth in advertising standards as every other provider of a good or service in the United States–that is something that will benefit anyone who seeks medical care.”


One Response to “Addressing Patient Confusion in the Health Care Marketplace”

  1. Ruben Frescas Says:

    I agree that transparency needs to be made clear to patients. I saw this same confusion, even through my time as a medical student. The power that the white coat has on a patient, even though you fully disclose that you are a student, overrides the ability to at times separate one as a student versus a practicing professional. As one patient disclosed to me who was a surgical patient, “there are so many people coming in and out that I lose track of who is who amongst all the white coats.” I believe approaches should be made to clarify a certain practitioner’s role to patient so that they can be better aware of the care provided.

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