Americans Overwhelmingly Prefer Physicians For Their Medical Care

author: brionnamuyco 8:13 am EST January 8, 2014


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

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's 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: http://ipsos-na.com/news-polls/pressrelease.aspx?id=6338.


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