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Survey: Patient-Provider Relationship is Strong, but High Costs Remain a Concern

May 19, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Patient engagement and an enhanced patient experience has been a challenge for providers to date, but a new survey from the Physicians Foundation has found that the physician-patient relationship remains strong, with nine out of 10 U.S. adults noting high levels of satisfaction with their primary care physician (PCP).

The survey, conducted by Harris Poll, a Nielsen company, on behalf of the Physicians Foundation in February 2016, gathered responses from more than 1,500 adults in the U.S. between the ages of 27 and 75 who had two visits with the same doctor in the past year. It should be noted that patients cite increasing concern and frustration with their ability to manage rising healthcare costs and medical debt, with many indicating that they have avoided treatment plans, routine or specialty check-ups, or prescriptions as a result. These behaviors have far reaching implications relative to healthcare access, costs, resource utilization and overall patient health outcomes, according to the researchers.

According to the research, 95 percent of patients surveyed are satisfied or very satisfied with their PCP’s ability to explain information in a manner they understand, while 96 percent feel their physicians are respectful of them. Moreover, 93 percent were satisfied or very satisfied with how well their PCP listened to them during their most recent exam, with 92 percent noting high levels of satisfaction relative to how well their doctor knew their medical history.

However, the findings show that patients who saw a primary care physician for their most recent routine exam are not fully adhering to treatment plans, avoiding routine check-ups or opting not to take prescription medication due to rising healthcare costs.

Sixty-two percent of U.S. adults are concerned with being able to pay for medical treatment if they get sick or injured. Almost half (48 percent) are not confident they could afford care should they become seriously ill. In addition, more than a quarter of U.S. adults (28 percent) have skipped a medical test, treatment or follow-up or avoided a visit to the doctor for a medical problem in the past 12 months because of costs. Twenty-seven percent of patients have avoided filling a prescription in the past 12 months, noting costs as a primary factor.

Patients perceive a range of factors as contributing to rising healthcare costs. When asked to cite specific cost drivers, 59 percent of patients surveyed say it’s the cost of prescription drugs. One-third (33 percent) of patients cited fraud as another contributor factor, followed by social conditions and poverty (28 percent), government mandates (26 percent) and an aging population (25 percent).

“The preservation of the physician-patient relationship is fundamental to the success of our healthcare system, and it is heartening to learn that more than nine out of 10 patients are highly satisfied with their primary care physician,” Walker Ray, M.D., president of the Physicians Foundation, said in a statement. “The Foundation is, however, very concerned over the number of U.S. adults avoiding routine care and treatment plans due to healthcare costs.”

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