Americans Prefer Physicians for their Medical Care

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Washington, D.C. - When asked to choose who they prefer to see for their medical care, Americans overwhelmingly want a physician (72%) over a nurse practitioner (7%), while roughly a fifth (21%) either has no preference (16%) or doesn’t know (5%), according to a new survey of 1,000 adults and an oversample of 320 opinion leaders (for a survey total of 363 opinion leaders) conducted on behalf of the American Academy of Family Physicians. In addition, 73% of adults and 84% of opinion leaders prefer to take a loved one to a physician over a nurse practitioner.

Americans’ preference to see or take a loved one to see a physician is reflected in their current medical choices. More than seven in ten Americans (71%) currently see a physician for their main medical care, and three quarters (75%) take a child or loved one to a physician for their main medical care.

Perceptions of Physicians, Family Physicians

When asked what characteristics are most important in the health professional people see for their main medical needs, ‘knowledgeable’ (37%), ‘up to date when it comes to the latest medical advances and treatments’ (29%), ‘experienced’ and ‘someone you can trust (both 27%) rank highest.

Furthermore, when asked to assign a list of 19 characteristics to physicians, family physicians, nurses, and nurse practitioners, a majority assigned 15 of the 19 characteristics to physicians and family physicians (together), including the ones respondents say are most important in the health professional they see for their main medical needs: physicians lead on ‘knowledgeable’ (77%), ‘up to date on medical treatments’ (80%), ‘experienced’ (77%), and ‘someone you trust’ (72%).

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When asked about the ‘core’ medical team that would oversee and confer about what is best in terms of an individual’s medical needs, Americans’ first choice is a primary care physician (41%), followed by a physician (24%). In total, 88% choose a physician of some kind as their first choice, and nine out of ten Americans (90%) prefer to have a physician lead their medical team.

These are findings from an Ipsos poll conducted for the American Academy of Family Physicians (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 Opinion Leaders is +5.9. For more information about credibility intervals, please see the appendix. 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 $75,000 annually unless they are between the ages of 25 and 29, 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.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Julia Clark
Vice President
Ipsos Public Affairs
Chicago, IL

Chris Jackson
Research Director
Ipsos Public Affairs
Washington, DC

About Ipsos Public Affairs

Ipsos Public Affairs is a non-partisan, objective, survey-based research practice made up of seasoned professionals. We conduct strategic research initiatives for a diverse number of American and international organizations, based not only on public opinion research, but elite stakeholder, corporate, and media opinion research.

Ipsos has media partnerships with the most prestigious news organizations around the world. In the U.S., UK and internationally, Ipsos Public Affairs is the media polling supplier to Reuters News, the world's leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals, and the Hispanic polling partner of Telemundo Communications Group, a division of NBC Universal providing Spanish-language content to U.S. Hispanics and audiences around the world.

Ipsos Public Affairs is a member of the Ipsos Group, a leading global survey-based market research company. We provide boutique-style customer service and work closely with our clients, while also undertaking global research.

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About Ipsos

Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. In October 2011 Ipsos completed the acquisition of Synovate. The combination forms the world’s third largest market research company.

With offices in 85 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across six research specializations: advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, public affairs research, and survey management.

Ipsos researchers assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media and they measure public opinion around the globe.

Ipsos has been listed on the Paris Stock Exchange since 1999 and generated global revenues of €1,789 billion (2.300 billion USD) in 2012.

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Americans Prefer Physicians for their Medical Care


Chris Jackson
Vice President, US
Ipsos Public Affairs
Julia Clark
Senior Vice President, US
Ipsos Public Affairs