Americans Overwhelmingly Prefer Physicians for Their Medical Care

Preference Transcends Demographics, Including Partisanship and ACA Stance

Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013

Leslie Champlin
Senior Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237 Ext. 6252

Topline findings:

• Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) prefer physicians over non-physicians for their medical care.
• Nine in 10 (90 percent) pick a physician to lead their ‘ideal medical team’ if given the choice.
• By margins greater than 2-1, physicians and family physicians are seen as more  knowledgeable, experienced, trusted and up-to-date on medical advances than non-physicians.

LEAWOOD, Kan. — Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of Americans and 81 percent of opinion leaders prefer to receive their medical care from a physician rather than a non-physician provider, according to a new, nationally representative survey conducted by Ipsos on health care and health care providers. This majority opinion holds true regardless of a respondent’s age, gender, race, partisan affiliation or opinion of the Affordable Care Act.

“These results indicate that Americans want a physician as the leader of their health care team,” said AAFP President Reid Blackwelder, M.D. “They understand that physicians have the medical expertise necessary to know whether an apparently simple symptom signals a complication of a chronic condition, the onset of a new condition affecting multiple organs, or a short-term and easily treated problem. They want that expertise for themselves and their loved ones.”

According to the survey, 9 in 10 Americans choose a physician to lead their ideal medical team. When thinking about this team, roughly the same number indicates that a physician is their top choice when they have a medical need. Given the choice of a variety of health care professionals, only 1 in 10 respondents put a non-physician (nurse, nurse practitioner, physician assistant or chiropractor) in charge of his/her medical team.

Respondents were also asked to identify the three most important characteristics they want in their medical professional. The top selections are:

• Knowledgeable (37 percent of respondents)
• Up-to-date on the latest medical advances (29 percent)
• Experienced (27 percent)
• Someone they trust (27 percent)

Accordingly, Americans ascribe these traits – the ones they identify as the most important for their primary medical professional to possess – to physicians by margins greater than 2-to-1 when compared to non-physicians. Respondents see physicians as the providers who are most:

• Knowledgeable (77 percent)
• Up-to-date on the latest medical advances (80 percent)
• Experienced (77 percent)
• Someone they trust (72 percent)

“Americans clearly prefer that their health care be physician-led when asked to choose between physician and nurse practitioners, ” said Chris Jackson, research director at Ipsos Public Affairs in Washington, D.C. “Americans also associate the physicians more strongly with the most desirable health care characteristics, indicating their greater comfort with medical doctors.”

Commissioned by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the survey of 1,000 adults and 363 opinion leaders (see definition below) was conducted online between Nov. 8–15, 2013, and has a credibility interval of +/- 3.5 percent.

To view the Ipsos survey results in more detail please visit:


Methodological Detail
Survey findings are from an Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of the AAFP from November 8-15, 2013. For the survey, a sample of 1,000 US adults 18+ was interviewed online, as well as a ‘booster’ sample of 320 Opinion Leaders (defined below) for a survey total of 363 Opinion Leaders (43 occurred naturally in the core sample of 1,000 US adults 18+). The precision of the Ipsos online polls are measured using credibility intervals. In this case, the credibility interval for all adults is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The credibility interval for the 853 Registered Voters is +3.8, and for Opinion Leaders is +5.9. For more information about credibility intervals, please see

For this survey, Opinion Leaders are defined as individuals who are registered to vote; have at least a college degree; are over age 25; are employed or looking for work; make more than $50,000 annually, who are heavy news consumers, and who are politically engaged.

The national sample of 1,000 was weighted by gender, age, region, ethnicity, education, and party identification. The sample of 363 Opinion Leaders was weighted by gender, age, region, ethnicity, and party identification. Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error.

Founded in 1947, the American Academy of Family Physicians represents 134,600 physicians and medical students nationwide, and it is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five of the total medical office visits in the United States per year – more than any other specialty. Family physicians provide comprehensive, evidence-based, and cost-effective care dedicated to improving the health of patients, families and communities. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing and personal patient-physician relationship where the family physician serves as the hub of each patient’s integrated care team. More Americans depend on family physicians than on any other medical specialty.

To learn more about the AAFP and family medicine, visit Follow us on Twitter,( and like us on Facebook. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website,