88% Satisfied With Their Doctor; Insurance Satisfaction Low

A new poll shows Americans are mostly happy with their healthcare experiences. However, not all of the results are positive.

“Whatever satisfies the soul is truth.”

—Walt Whitman

In on-going contact with my physician-dad’s former patients (I’m communicating with them as part of an upcoming book about him), I’ve reached some conclusions. One being—a visit to his office was something they never dreaded.

To a person, they really liked and respected the guy. “Your dad really cared about me and my life,” one patient told me. “I felt like I’d disappoint him if I didn’t live healthy. It was a real motivation to take care of myself.”

Thankfully, it seems today’s doctors are having similar success. According to a recent Harris Poll, nearly 90% of patients who have visited a medical doctor in the past year state that they were “satisfied” with the experience (53% were “very satisfied”).

This should matter because, as physicians certainly know, patients now have “more choices than ever as to where and how they interact” with their doctors. And in today’s atmosphere of too many unhappy medical practitioners, this is surely something to celebrate.

“Many factors contribute to a positive experience at the doctor’s office,” according to the Harris Poll, “with the doctor’s overall knowledge, training, and expertise topping the list—83% say this is very important. The doctor’s ability to access overall medical history (65%) and time spent with the doctor (58%) were also very important, and many say the same for several aspects of communication: ease of making an appointment (49%), efficient and simple billing process (45%) and ability to communicate with the doctor outside of an appointment, either by phone or email (44%).”

Surprisingly enough, one of the most vexing aspects of doctor visits, long waiting room time, was considered important for satisfaction by just 43% of patients. Also scoring low on the satisfaction gage were: convenience of the doctor’s office location (40%), minimized paperwork (32%), and office appearance and atmosphere (31%).

Beating out or tying doctor’s visits (88%) on the satisfaction scale were restaurants (91%), online purchases (89%), and department stores (88%); banks were rated high, too (87%). At the bottom, only about 30% expressed satisfaction with their last interaction with their health insurance company.

The national survey of nearly 2,400 American also addressed two other issues—online healthcare access and visits to retail health services:

• While things are progressing is this area, just 25% of patients said they have “online access to their medical records, including doctor visits, prescriptions, test results and history.” And only 12% of those polled have e-mail access to their physician. The problem is that nearly 60% of patients rate these things as being important to their satisfaction. The biggest digital healthcare shortcoming among those polled was the lack of an online cost estimator that provides average costs for specific services. Just 7% of patients have it; 62% want it.

• When asked about using retail healthcare providers—urgent care facilities, walk-in clinics or drugstores—for various ailments, the interest depends on medical needs, according to the Harris Poll. A clear majority would go to them for flu shots or to treat colds or flu-like symptoms. Clear majorities, however, are also unlikely to turn to these types of providers for regular checkups, x-rays, or chronic care.

Finally, “very satisfied ratings” for doctor visits appear to rise with age and vary by ethnicity. Among Millennials (age 18-35) 47% said they were “very satisfied” compared to 69% among Matures (ages 70+). From an ethnicity perspective, Whites (54%) and Blacks (57%) are much more likely than Hispanics (43%) and Asians (39%) to say they are very satisfied with their last healthcare experience.