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Position Statement: Use of the Term “Doctor” in Advertising and Patient Communications

Position Statement: Use of the Term “Doctor” in Advertising and Patient Communications

With the emergence of the clinical doctorate degree in allied healthcare fields including nursing, audiology, and speech-language pathology, allied healthcare providers who have achieved their doctorate degrees are increasingly using the title of “Doctor” in their practice settings, advertisements, and other patient communications.Since the title “doctor” can appropriately be used by Medical Doctors (M.D.), Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.), and doctoral degree holders (i.e. Au.D., Ph.D., Sc.D.), further notation can be helpful in ensuring patients are able to make informed healthcare decisions. The AAO-HNS believes a coordinated team approach is best for improving the overall health of patients and offers the following guidance to its members and allied healthcare providers:

Consistent with many state licensure laws, a healthcare professional may not lawfully use a designator or any other kind of certificate or professional credential unless that person has been appropriately licensed to practice and has received a degree from an accredited institution. Misrepresentation or deception of any degree indicator or licensure would be a violation of statute defined by state licensure laws and deceptive trade laws.When a doctoral degree is cited among an individual’s professional qualifications in any form of advertisement or other patient communication, the field of study for the degree should be specified in order to avoid confusion and/or misrepresentation. Individuals who use the title “Doctor” or the abbreviation “Dr.” in any form of advertising or other patient communication in connection with his/her practice must simultaneously use a clarifying title, initials, abbreviations or designation, or language that identifies the type of practice for which he/she is certified or licensed. In referencing the professional degree in printed media such as on business cards, in letterhead, and in advertisements, healthcare professionals are advised to check applicable state and federal laws.

The AAO-HNS recommends the following examples:

  • Jane Doe, M.D.
  • Jane Doe, D.O., Ph.D.
  • Jane Doe, Au.D., Doctor of Audiology;
  • Jane Doe, Au.D.
  • Jane Doe, Ph.D., Audiologist; or
  • Jane Doe, Ph.D.

Approved 12/2009
Reaffirmed 9/28/2013

Important Disclaimer Notice (Updated 7/31/14)

Position statements are approved by the American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery or Foundation (AAO-HNS/F) Boards of Directors and are typically generated from AAO-HNS/F committees. Once approved by the Academy or Foundation Board of Directors, they become official position statements and are added to the existing position statement library. In no sense do they represent a standard of care. The applicability of position statements, as guidance for a procedure, must be determined by the responsible physician in light of all the circumstances presented by the individual patient. Adherence to these clinical position statements will not ensure successful treatment in every situation. As with all AAO-HNS/F guidance, this position statement should not be deemed inclusive of all proper treatment decisions or methods of care, nor exclusive of other treatment decisions or methods of care reasonably directed to obtaining the same results. Position statements are not intended to and should not be treated as legal, medical, or business advice.

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