Patients happy with their doctor, but not with health care system

When it comes to health care, most American patients are happy with their primary care doctor, but their satisfaction stops there.

Roughly 80 percent of consumers who visited their family doctor or primary care physician at least once in the past year said they were “very” or “extremely” satisfied with the visits, according to a new consumer survey by The Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

They cited factors related to personalized care, time spent with their doctors and empathy as the main reasons for their overall satisfaction. Physicians also expressed the critical importance of the physician-patient relationship, with 80 percent of physicians indicating that the patient relationships are the number one most satisfying aspect of practicing medicine, according to a separate study of nearly 14,000 U.S. physicians the foundation released last month.

But when it comes to the direction of health care, those patients are much more pessimistic. The majority of respondents (53 percent) have negative perceptions about the future of health care in the United States, compared to just 22 percent who have positive views. Though the level of pessimism is consistent across demographics, it’s particularly noticeable among females (53 percent negative versus 19 percent positive) and those 55 years of age and older (60 percent negative versus 22 percent positive).

That echoes the same sentiments of U.S. physicians. The Physicians’ Foundation also found last month that only 23 percent of physicians are somewhat or very optimistic about the future of the medical profession.

“Patients and physicians share strong concerns about the future of the U.S. health care system,” says  Lou Goodman, president of The Physicians Foundation. “Considering that both patients and physicians are expressing such a startling level of frustration and uncertainty about the health system, more needs to be done to ensure the sustainability and access of quality patient care in America.”

Consumers also aren’t thrilled with insurance and pharmaceutical companies. About three-quarters of survey respondents who have a family doctor blame insurance companies and pharmaceutical/drug companies for the ever-rising health care costs. More than half (55 percent) also feel insurance companies are negatively impacting the quality of care.

Other leading factors consumers contributed to rising healthcare costs include people’s failure to take responsibility for their health (64 percent); the cost of malpractice insurance (62 percent); the government (59 percent) and hospitals (53 percent).

The survey, conducted online for The Physicians Foundation by Harris Interactive in July 2012, surveyed more than 2,200 adults 18 years of age and over in the U.S., with more than 1,800 indicating that they have a family physician or PCP.

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