Physician-Patient Relationship Remains Strong but Cost May Challenge Its Future
New patient survey finds rising drug costs to be biggest pain point
Boston, MA, October 4, 2017 — An overwhelming majority of patients (95 percent) report satisfaction with their primary care physician, according to a national patient survey commissioned by The Physicians Foundation, a non-profit organization seeking to empower physicians to lead in the delivery of high-quality, cost-efficient healthcare. However, only 11 percent of patients and 14 percent of physicians1 report that they have all the time they need together. This signals a significant challenge to providing high quality care, especially when 90 percent of patients feel the most essential element of a quality healthcare system is a solid physician-patient relationship.
To better understand how Americans are feeling when they step out of the doctor’s office, the Foundation issued its second biennial survey gathering responses from a statistically significant national sample of 1,747 U.S. adults between the ages of 27 and 75 who had two visits with the same doctor in the past year. Conducted by Regina Corso Consulting in June 2017 on behalf of the Physicians Foundation, a number of the questions from the survey corresponded with similar questions from the Foundation’s 2016 Biennial Physician Survey, in order to compare patients’ and physicians’ outlook on the healthcare landscape.
In another significant finding from the new patient survey, 89 percent of consumers are fearful that the rising cost of healthcare will adversely impact them in the future. In particular, over half (56 percent) of patients say the cost of prescription drugs and pharmaceuticals directly contributes to rising healthcare costs. In fact, because of cost, 25 percent of patients surveyed said they did not fill a prescription and 19 percent have skipped doses of their medicine.
Eighty-eight percent of consumers look to pharma companies and the way they price drugs as the main reason for rising healthcare costs. Other factors that consumers feel contribute to rising healthcare costs include absence of free markets (24 percent) and fraud (23 percent).
The Need for Physician Leadership
When it comes to who has decision-making power related to patient care, 69 percent of consumers believe that insurance companies have the greatest influence in impacting treatment options for medical conditions. This contradicts directly with whom consumers in the survey (87 percent) feel the true influencer should be – that is, physicians. Along with physicians, the survey finds consumers feel several other institutions and organizations are key decision-makers, including:
- Pharmaceutical and medical device companies (49 percent)
- Congress (41 percent)
- Physicians (31 percent)
- State government (31 percent)
Ninety percent of healthcare consumers say as leaders of patient care, the physician’s voice must be front and center in discussions around healthcare access, cost and quality. Yet according to physicians, this is not the case. In the 2016 Biennial Physician Survey, 59 percent of physicians said they feel they have little ability to significantly influence the healthcare system. The Physicians Foundation believes these findings signify a critical disconnect and contribute to the continuing loss of autonomy felt by physicians.
“This patient survey, now in its second edition, is designed to help us understand trends in care through the patient’s experience,” said Walker Ray, M.D., President of The Physicians Foundation. “This year, the results have underscored the urgent need to amplify the physician’s voice. Supporting physician leadership has been and continues to be a major initiative for our Foundation. We feel it this work is central to helping physicians lead during these challenging times.”
Mounting Cost, Capacity Concerns and Poverty
In comparing the perspectives of patients and physicians, both recognize barriers in the current landscape. Patients and physicians agree physicians’ workloads are at full capacity, poverty directly impacts healthcare costs and medical costs are rising.
While the physician-patient relationship remains strong, 65 percent of patients feel that time is always or often limited with the physician, however only half of physicians feel similarly. Yet the same number of patients (53 percent) and physicians (52 percent) are of a common mindset in terms of workload – believing physicians to be at full capacity.
Another interesting and timely finding is what consumers think about healthcare reform. An overwhelming majority (91 percent) feel it is imperative that healthcare stakeholders work together to address the challenges that make the current system difficult to understand. As social justice issues are considered in the healthcare reform debate, almost 90 percent of consumers believe hospitals and doctors should look beyond a patient’s medical needs and see if underlying issues are interfering with health outcomes. The majority (87 percent) of consumers recognize poverty has an adverse impact on the cost of healthcare, although physicians, according to the 2016 survey, are more likely to report it has an extreme impact.
The largest qualm continues to be cost. Many are already suffering negative consequences because of the high cost of medical care including thousands of dollars in medical debt. Fifty seven percent of healthcare consumers feel they are one sickness away from being in serious financial trouble. And 75 percent of consumers are concerned with their ability to pay for medical treatment if they were to get sick or injured, an increase from the first survey issued in 2016 when 62 percent were concerned.
“The findings gleaned from this second edition of the patient survey are meant to help physicians and patients identify areas for change and improvement,” said Gary Price, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of surgery at Yale-New Haven Hospital and a Board member of the Physicians Foundation. “The Foundation remains dedicated to raising awareness of the central role physicians play in our healthcare system and to ensuring these critical voices are heard.”
About the Survey
The Physicians Foundation Patient Survey was conducted online within the United States by Regina Corso Consulting on behalf of The Physicians Foundation in June 2017 among a nationally representative sample of 1,747 adults, ages 27-75, who had two visits with the same doctor in the past year. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
- The Physicians Foundation. (2016). 2016 Survey of America’s physicians: Practice patterns and perspectives [Website]. Retrieved from /wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Biennial_Physician_Survey_2016.pdf. Dallas, TX: Merritt Hawkins.
About The Physicians Foundation
The Physicians Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that seeks to empower physicians to lead in the delivery of high-quality, cost-efficient healthcare. As the U.S. healthcare system continues to evolve, the Physicians Foundation is steadfast in its determination to strengthen the physician-patient relationship, support physicians in sustaining their medical practices and help practicing physicians navigate the changing healthcare system.
CooperKatz & Co. for The Physicians Foundation