Physicians might be more appreciated than they think. A Pew Research Center survey found that 63% of American adults had seen a healthcare provider in the previous year for an illness or medical condition. Of those, 87% thought that the provider listened carefully to their symptoms and concerns.
Nearly as many patients (84%) felt their doctor "really cared about their health and well-being." Four our of five Americans thought they received all the information they needed from their healthcare provider.
Those findings indicate that around 217 million American adults had positive experiences with their physicians. If you like you're doctor, you're part of a huge club. And if you're a doctor, congratulations -- it's highly likely that your patients think you're doing a good job.
Very different perspectives
What makes the Pew survey results especially interesting is how they show patients have a very different perspective than physicians have.
A survey published in the Archives of Internal Medicine back in 2012 reported that physicians in the U.S. experience burnout more than any other profession. In 2015, a Medscape survey found that, despite making large salaries, nearly half of all U.S. doctors said they had experienced "loss of enthusiasm for work, feelings of cynicism, and a low sense of personal accomplishment." The findings from the Pew survey suggest that this burnout isn't having too great of a negative impact on physicians' relationships with their patients.
The top reason for frustration for physicians in the Medscape survey was "too many bureaucratic tasks." This probably is a reason why 23% of patients in the Pew survey reported that they "felt rushed by their healthcare provider." Still, though, many more patients didn't feel rushed than did.
Although most Americans appear to like their doctors, many are also taking other approaches for treatment of illnesses. The Pew survey found that nearly half of all Americans have tried alternative medicine outside of conventional medical care. Alternative medicine includes acupuncture, chiropractic, energy therapies, herbal dietary supplements, and other therapies that physicians typically wouldn't use for treatment. It should be noted, however, that only 20% of Americans used alternative medicine instead of traditional medical treatment, with others using alternative medicine in addition to traditional medical treatment.
Younger Americans appear to be more likely to try alternative treatments. The Pew survey found that 51% of U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 29 had used alternative treatments, while only 38% of adults age 65 or over had done so.
Americans are also likely to do their own research on medical conditions. Just 30% of respondents in the Pew survey rely solely on what their doctor tells them. Roughly 36% do some research of their own to learn more about the treatment recommended by their healthcare providers. Another 21% check for other treatment options. Around 9% of Americans research potential side effects.
It's not you... it's me
With so many Americans having positive experiences with their healthcare providers, you might expect they'd think overall health in the country was improving. But they don't.
The Pew Research Center survey found that 48% of American adults think that the health of children is worse than it was 20 years ago, with 20% thinking it's about the same. Only 31% think the health of U.S. children has gotten better over the last two decades.
Around 42% of the survey respondents felt that the health of U.S. adults was worse than it was 20 years ago. Roughly 24% thought adult health was about the same as two decades ago, with 33% viewing the health of adult Americans as better than it was in the past.
Why such pessimism? A couple of other findings in the Pew survey could point to the answer. Nearly all (95%) of Americans said that getting enough physical exercise was important to improving health. However, a whopping 79% of Americans think they should be exercising more.
Perhaps the main message from the Pew survey is that most Americans could have the following conversation with their primary physician: "I like you a lot, doc, even though I'm not as healthy as I should be. It's not you... it's me."