As I tramp through medical appointments, I have many interviews by staff people (I have, in fact, memorized my PAMF patient number, quite unintentionally, just from checking to make sure that the paperwork is good) who run through a standard set of questions. After my names, first and last, spelled out, my date of birth, and my insurance carrier comes the question “Who’s your primary?”, meaning ‘Who’s your primary care physician?’ Primary here is a nouning by truncation, a phenomenon I have lots of examples of (and have blogged about fairly often), so there’s nothing especially exciting here. What’s interesting is when the staff frame the question that way, one step further into medical jargon than primary care physician (which is already contextually specialized, used where a non-medical type might say regular doctor or family doctor).
(Note: in the U.S. these days, primary care physicians come from family medicine/practice, internal medicine, and pediatrics; the primary care physician is literally primary, the first doctor a patient will normally see, the doctor who refers patients on to specialists, and the doctor who keeps track of the patient’s care. These doctors used to be called general practitioners, or GPs, and still are in most of the rest of the English-speaking world.)
In any case, printed questionnaires always have the full form of the question. In face-to-face interviews, on the other hand, I always get the truncated version. I assume that comes from the interviewers assessing who I am and what I can be expected to know, and then treating me as to some degree one of them, so that they can use the version they’re most comfortable with.
Of course, they could just be sticking with their truncated jargon, regardless of who they’re talking to. I hope not, because I’d expect a fair number of patients to be unfamiliar with the usage. Possibly someone has recorded interviews and looked at the question.