New Survey Results Just Released

Americans Want Physicians Handling Their Health Care

December 18, 2013 03:05 pm Sheri Porter

It's the season of giving, and family physicians just received one of the best possible gifts from the American public -- a huge "thumbs up" and vote of confidence as to whom they want overseeing their health care.

[Stock photo of physician in foreground with family in the background]

That's the headline news pulled from survey results released today( that indicate

  • 72 percent of American adults prefer physicians to nonphysicians when it comes to health care,
  • 90 percent of adults would choose a physician to lead their "ideal medical team" when given the choice, and
  • by a greater than two-to-one margin, adults see physicians and family physicians as more knowledgeable, experienced, trusted and up-to-date on medical advances than nonphysicians.

AAFP President Reid Blackwelder, M.D., of Kingsport, Tenn., called the news "outstanding."

"It's exciting, because anytime you get a survey that overwhelmingly says patients appreciate you and want to see you, that's good news," said Blackwelder. "I see this as personal affirmation. Our patients value us. They trust us."

Story highlights
  • Just-released survey results from the global marketing research company, Ipsos, show that 72 percent of those surveyed preferred physicians to nonphysicians, such as nurse practitioners, when it came to health care.
  • The poll showed that nine out of 10 respondents wanted a physician in charge of their medical team.
  • Consumers valued physicians for having the education, expertise and experience necessary to meet their increasingly complex health care needs.

Blackwelder said the survey results accomplished something legislators and policymakers have been unable to do despite their constant talk about the value of primary care. "This survey puts a face -- a family physician face -- on the message that's being repeated nationwide that team-based care and primary care are critical to the successful transformation of health care delivery in this country," said Blackwelder.

"Even in these challenging times, we universally are seen as knowledgeable and trustworthy; our patients want to see us when they have health care needs, and overwhelmingly, they want us to be the leader of their health care team," he added.

In a related press release, Blackwelder detailed exactly what patients value in their physicians. "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," said Blackwelder. "They want that expertise for themselves and their loved ones."

The AAFP-commissioned survey was conducted online from Nov. 8-15 by Ipsos, a global market research company, and included responses from 1,320 U.S. adults age 18 or older.

The survey asked consumers a series of questions about health care topics, including, for example, who they most often see for their health care, who they would prefer to see if given the choice and what characteristics they would ascribe to various health care professionals.

The survey defined the term "medical team" and supplied a list of various health care professionals: nurse practitioners (NPs), physician assistants (PAs), internists, pediatricians, chiropractors, surgeons, physicians, and primary care physicians.

Respondents then were asked which professional on that list was their "first call" when a medical question arose, and 41 percent indicated that they wanted to confer with their primary care physician. Some of the other responses were physician (24 percent), specialist (8 percent), NP (6 percent) and PA (3 percent).

In addition, 70 percent of the adults surveyed said they were less likely to vote for a state representative who supported legislation that would restrict their ability to continue seeing their physician; 72 percent indicated they would be more likely to vote for a representative who would protect consumers' ability to continue to see their physician.

Blackwelder summarized the findings this way: "Finally, we have a survey from patients that says they not only value primary care, they value you for your education, expertise and experience.

"As family physicians, we not only are a critical part of the health care team, we are the identified leader of the team, and that's what our patients want and expect."

More From AAFP
Americans Prefer Physicians for Their Care media kit

The AAFP on the Role of Nurse Practitioners in the U.S. Health Care System

AAFP Policy: Nurse Practitioners