A national survey released today by Vitals found that, when it comes to the type of relationship people have with their doctors, there are three distinct patient personalities, each with their own unique set of qualities.
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The stakes for people finding satisfaction in their doctor-patient relationship are high. Studies in the past have confirmed that patients who trust their doctor are more likely to comply with medical advice and prescribed regimes and, as a result, be healthier.
Among some of the most astonishing findings, the study indicated that 56 percent of people spend several days researching the right doctor. The top reasons people cited as grounds to “break up” with their doctor were if the office stopped taking their insurance (40 percent), if they disagreed with a diagnosis (21 percent) or if the practice moved to a new location that was an extra 20 minute drive (17 percent).
There were also some stark differences in how men and women shopped for doctors. Women were more likely to look at doctor reviews and change doctors every few years. In contrast, nearly 60 percent of men said they never switch physicians. And surprisingly, men had a stronger preference for a physician of their own gender than women did. Seventy-four percent of men said they prefer a male physician, whereas only 67 percent of women said they prefer a woman doctor.
On the topic of gender, it was notable that the majority of adults aged 65+ preferred a male doctor (57 percent), but with adults under 25-years-old, the preferred gender is definitively female (63 percent).
The study revealed three specific archetypes for patients:
The Uber is the patient who self-advocates for herself and her family. Finding the right doctor is a full-out search. They will whittle down a list and then conduct interviews with physicians to find a favorite. Yet, because The Uber values a doctor with the highest academic credentials over those who they personally connect with, the doctor-patient relationship is all business. This patient treats the doctor as an employee, keeping them on speed dial. No medical issue is too small to call. In fact, you wouldn’t want your appointment scheduled after this patient. The Uber often comes prepared with a binder full of concerns that they plan to discuss with the doctor.
The Outsourcer is the patient that lets the doctor’s expertise shine. They’re content to just follow doctor’s orders and recommendations – no questions asked. Sure, others may describe The Outsourcer as a non-alarmist, but he’s just busy with other things. They are more than happy to let their Uber friends and relatives spend the time to do the research, and then The Outsourcer can benefit from the results. They’re most likely to have children and avoid social media networks. As a result, they’re not likely to turn to online doctor reviews or do more than one hour of research when it comes to looking for a new doctor. But there’s not often the need: The Outsourcer is most likely to be happy with their doctor-patient relationship.
The Nurturer is a social creature who tends to take things under review with her network. These patients are more likely to rely on friends and family for advice on doctor recommendations, as well as movie and restaurant suggestions. Their doctor is a part of their extended network. They feel most comfortable collaborating with a physician on a diagnosis. While The Nurturer prefers to connect face-to-face with peers, they are also more likely to check Facebook several times per day to stay in the loop with their circle of friends and actively participate on other social network sites like Pinterest and Google+.
This survey was conducted online within the United States by Vitals from Nov-Dec, 2013 and included results from 2,421 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
Vitals aims to make better health possible. We are a leader in providing online tools that enable healthcare consumers to make informed decisions about both the quality and cost of their medical care. Through health plans, hospitals and our leading consumer websites, Vitals helps more than 150 million people each year access information for better, more affordable care. The Vitals Index is an ongoing report about the state of doctor-patient relationships based on proprietary data and surveys.