Age and experience over reviews and recommendations.
43% of Americans prefer doctors in their 40s, followed by doctors in their 50s (30%) and 30s (17%)
Americans look for experience (62%), followed by recommendations (44%) and education (38%) when seeking a doctor
34% of Gen Z and 23% of Millennials look for gender, compared to 19% of Gen X, and 11% of Baby Boomers
51% of Americans rate primary care physicians the most trustworthy, followed by emergency physicians (5%) and surgeons (5%)
Americans prefer doctors in their 40s. That’s according to a new doctor selection survey by HealthCare.com.
We asked over 1,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and over to choose from among six age bands ranging from 20-29 to 70+.
The greatest number of Americans, 43%, prefer their doctors to be 40-49 years old, followed by doctors in their 50s (30%) and 30s (17%).
5% of respondents prefer physicians in their 20s and 4% doctors in their 60s. Just 1% of Americans prefer doctors over 70 years old.
What age do you prefer your doctor to be?
By generation, the survey found that older Americans tend to prefer older physicians, whereas younger Americans favor more youthful physicians.
For example, 44% of Baby Boomers (b. 1946-1964) prefer doctors in their 40s, and 42% of them favor doctors in their 50s.
On the other hand, Gen Zers (b. 1997-2012) prefer 30-39 year old doctors the most (36%), followed by doctors in their 40s (31%), and 20s (22%).
What age do you prefer your doctor to be? (generational preferences)
Age and Experience vs Reviews and Recommendations
When selecting a doctor, patients weigh diverse metrics that impact their view of a physician’s suitability.
HealthCare.com asked American adults to rank eight factors they look for when seeking a doctor, ranging from age and experience to reviews and recommendations.
We excluded practical factors such as insurance network coverage and location.
Overall, factors related to experience and reputation outweigh identity factors for U.S. patients when selecting a physician.
The greatest number of Americans look for experience (62%), followed by recommendations (44%), education (38%), institutional affiliations (29%), and online reviews (25%).
Demographic factors such as age (20%), gender (20%), and ethnicity (5%) are less sought after.
What do you look for when seeking a doctor?
Trust vs Caring
Having a doctor that you feel comfortable with is more than a matter of mood. Research shows that strong relationships with primary care providers help prevent illness and can also help reduce socioeconomic health disparities.
We asked respondents to rate the ten most common physician types based on trust and caring.
The greatest number (51%) of American adults find their most common point of contact with the healthcare system, primary care physicians, the most trustworthy, followed by emergency physicians (5%) and surgeons (5%).
The greatest number (44%) of Americans also find primary care physicians the most caring.
However, respondents rated pediatricians (12%) and psychiatrists (6%) the second and third most caring doctors.
All generations except Gen Z rate primary care physicians as the most caring, but not to the same degree.
Whereas 63% of Baby Boomers say primary care physicians are the most caring, 44% of Gen X, 37% of Millennials, and just 15% of Gen Z do.
On the other hand, Gen Zers rate pediatricians as the most caring (21%), followed by primary care physicians (15%), then psychiatrists (13%).
“Essentially, Gen Z are people mainly in their 20s,” notes Andrzej Kozikowski, PhD, the Director of Research at the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, who has researched what factors matter most to patients when choosing a medical provider.
“They still remember their pediatricians and have preferences for providers with similar demographics in terms of age and gender, so I can see how that could impact findings. Prior experience with a provider is a strong determinant of preferences, so if you’ve seen a female pediatrician, you might feel more comfortable with that person.”
Private Clinics Most Preferred
In addition to whom they see and the care they receive, patient outcomes are also impacted by where they are seen.
Healthcare settings ranging from large hospitals to urgent care centers to private clinics offer very different environments for the provision of care.
Our survey found the greatest number (54%) of Americans like to be seen at private clinics, followed by hospitals (15%) and urgent care centers (9%).
Just 7% prefer home telehealth visits, and 5% home doctor visits.
Where do you most like to be seen by a doctor?
Significant differences, however, were observed between generations.
Whereas 60% of Baby Boomers and 61% of Gen X most like to be seen in private clinics, just 47% of Millennials and 38% of Gen Z do.
Conversely, 35% of Gen Z and 16% of Millennials prefer to be seen in hospitals, compared to 13% of Gen Z and 8% of Boomers.
Giving Patients Better Tools to Choose Providers
Kozikowski thinks giving patients better tools to choose their providers could benefit the provider-patient relationship. “We as humans have distinct needs, backgrounds, and previous experiences, and provider selection is a complex process. We should help patients by providing them with tailored information to their needs and preferences so that they make informed decisions,” he says.
“My recommendation is to develop tools where patients can enter their preferences and find providers that meet their needs. For example, if they want a primary care provider with at least ten years of experience, offer them a list of PCPs that fit that criteria. This tool could start with simple things like number of years in practice and subspecialties.”
HealthCare.com conducted this survey on October 11, 2022, utilizing a SurveyMonkey Audience to poll a national sample of 1,005 18+ U.S. adults. The margin of error for this survey is plus or minus 3.0 percentage points. The sample was balanced for age, gender, and U.S. region according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.