February 9, 2017

Match Made in Medicine: A Peek into America’s Doctor-Patient Relationships

Since 2007, we’ve been focused on making it easy for patients to find their perfect doctor match, so in the season of coupling up, we’re taking a deeper look at what’s behind this medical matchmaking. Our new report breaks down how and why Americans fall for their doctors, what makes them stay, and what would cause a clinical uncoupling.

Studies have shown that better doctor-patient relationships have a positive impact on healthcare outcomes*, and are an important factor in both a patient’s journey and a doctor’s. In fact, patient relationships are the primary source of professional satisfaction for doctors**.

Our study similarly found that a strong relationship is key for both patients and doctors, and Americans seek bonds that are long-term: 82% of Americans have had an ongoing relationship with their doctor, and the average length of time they’ve seen the same provider is 9.4 years. This is true for Millennials, too: more than 3 in 4 (78%) believe that a long-term relationship with their doctor is important.

However, our survey also revealed that for many Americans, maintaining that medical match can be challenging. More than two in five (41%) think it is more difficult to maintain a long-term relationship with a doctor than with a romantic partner. Millennials in particular feel this way: nearly half (47%) say it is difficult to maintain long-term doctor relationships compared to 36% of Baby Boomers.

Here are five of the top factors that can make or break the doctor-patient relationship:

–Congeniality and humor: 43% of Americans want a doctor with a sense of humor and 26% deem appearance important. Likeability is also key – especially for women: women are more likely than men (59% vs. 45%) to think it is important that their doctor is well-liked by others.

–A great first impression: When it comes to a first meeting, more Americans say it is important for a doctor to ask good questions (82% vs. 59%) and make them feel comfortable (80% vs. 76%) than a first date. And more care about a doctor who is punctual on their first visit (78%) than a romantic interest who is on time for a first date (61%). For doctors, second chances are hard to come by: nearly three in four (72%) Americans would be more willing to give a date a second chance than a doctor.

–Open ears and open communication: Nearly 3 in 4 (74%) think being a good listener is important in a doctor (with women 18% more likely than men to feel this way), and more Americans are comfortable talking about their sexual health with a long-term doctor (67%) than with a long-term romantic partner (57%). With a long-term doctor, women are also more likely than men to share embarrassing symptoms (76% vs 65%) and talk about their mental health (77% vs. 66%).

–A sense of trust: More than 3 in 4 (77%) Americans think it is important that their doctor is trustworthy and more than four in five (82%) are more likely to take advice from a doctor they know and love versus one they just met.

–Location, location, location: 70% of Americans think it is important that their doctor is located close to where they work or live, but they’re also willing to travel the distance: 68% would be willing to travel further for a great doctor than they would for a great date.

Learn more in our report below, and share your secrets for a strong doctor-patient bond with us by tagging Zocdoc on Facebook or Twitter.


Survey Methodology: The Zocdoc Doctor-Patient Relationship Survey was conducted by Kelton Global between January 5th and January 8th, 2017 as an online survey of 1,025 nationally-representative Americans ages 18 and over, with a margin of error of +/- 3.2%

  1. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0094207
  2. ** http://www.physiciansfoundation.org/uploads/default/Biennial_Physician_Survey_2016.pdf