Doctors should address patients with respect
For far too long, doctor’s offices, hospitals, clinical laboratories and other medically oriented organizations have used HIPAA as an excuse not to address medical consumers by their proper titles and surnames in waiting rooms. Nonsense! Covered entities are permitted to call out consumers’ names and use “sign in” sheets, provided no medical information is revealed. The HIPAA Privacy Rule explicitly permits the incidental disclosures that may result from this practice.
There is no question the relationship between a health care provider and a consumer is a delicate balance of mutual respect, professionalism and trust. Unfortunately, the respect and professionalism aspect of that balance has been eroded. Typically, consumers are addressed by their given names and not afforded the courtesy of being called Mr./Mrs./Ms. and their surnames. However, providers usually introduce themselves by stating, “Hello, Joe, I’m Dr. So and So.” In my opinion, that type of introduction immediately attempts to place the paying consumer in a subordinate role. Dare to call a physician by his given name and I guarantee you’ll be corrected.
Health care consumers are not employees or friends. They are paying customers. I am well aware that some consumers may prefer to be addressed by their given name, but the provider should be invited to do so by the consumer. It is also unacceptable for any health care consumer to be addressed in terms of endearment. I have frequently noticed that support staff members make statements such as, “Right this way, dear. I’ll take you back to the exam room.”
My proper name is my only defense from being treated as a medical problem, diagnosis or symptom. My proper name humanizes me. I refuse to give that up to anyone.