American Osteopathic Association

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Finding Dr. Right: New Survey Reveals Word of Mouth the Most Used Resource When Looking for a Physician

Sept. 30, 2013                       

American Osteopathic Association Equips Patients with Tools to Find the Right Physician

(LAS VEGAS) — New research released today by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) reveals that 1 in 3 adults have switched or dropped their primary care physician in the past five years and that having no health insurance is the most common reason for not seeing a physician. However, these trends may change as an estimated 30 million individuals are expected to gain access to health insurance plans when open enrollment for the new health insurance marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) begins on Oct. 1.

To help individuals and their families understand important questions to ask when searching for a physician, the AOA offers a variety of tips and access to resources for finding the right physician.

“Each of us is different when it comes to our medical care,” emphasizes Jennifer N. Caudle, DO, an AOA board-certified family physician in Philadelphia. “Choosing a physician who meets your unique needs can have significant benefits to your overall, long-term health.”

Dr. Caudle, an assistant professor in the department of family medicine at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, N.J., suggests that some initial questions to ask include:

  • Does the physician's office take your insurance plan?
  • Is it located close to your home or work? 
  • Does it offer evening or weekend office hours, or do the hours fit your schedule?
  • If your physician is unavailable for an appointment, can he or she recommend another physician who can see you?

A Personal Decision

The AOA’s survey reveals that adults use a variety of criteria to narrow down their choice for a physician, but the most important factors when selecting a physician for themselves or a loved one are:

  • Acceptance of insurance plan (83.3%)
  • Bedside manner/empathy (60.5%)
  • Proximity of office to home, work or school (57.4%)
  • Convenient office hours (42.9%)
  • Medical specialty (37.5%)

“Like seeking a mate you trust and feel comfortable with, finding Dr. Right is a highly personal decision,” explains Valerie E. Goodman, DO, an osteopathic family physician at the University of Maryland Shore Regional Health Centreville (Md.) Family Practice and an advocate for rural health care. “For some, especially those in rural areas, the ability to care for all members of the family—men, women, children and the elderly—or the distance from the physician’s office to home or work, may be the most important factors in deciding which physician to choose.”

The AOA’s survey also looks at the tools most often used when finding a physician. The top five resources adults utilize when selecting a physician for themselves or a loved one are:

  • Word of mouth, i.e. family, friends, coworkers (65.9%)
  • Insurance provider directory (51.9%)
  • Physician rating websites, i.e. Vitals, Healthgrades (22.8%)
  • Hospital website (10.8%)
  • Consumer review websites, i.e. Yelp (10.5%)

 Additional Findings

  • About 3 in 5 adults are aware that open enrollment in the new health insurance marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act begins on Oct. 1, 2013.

  • Adults in urban settings were more likely to have changed or dropped their physician in the past five years than those in rural or suburban areas.

  • The most common reasons given for changing or dropping a physician are:

    • moved out of the area (34.7%)

    • didn’t feel physician was a good fit (33.9%)

    • changed insurance provider (21.2%)

    • physician retired or moved (19%)

  • When selecting a physician for themselves, younger adults are much more likely to use “word of mouth” than older adults (77.1% among 18-29 year olds, 64.6% among 30-49 year olds and 59.8% among 50-79 year olds).

  • Respondents rank “covered by insurance plan” as the most important factor when choosing a physician regardless of whether they are finding the physician for themselves; their child or grandchild; or an adult family member, such as a spouse or parent.

  • Behind “covered by insurance plan,” respondents rank “bedside manner/empathy” as the most important factor when selecting a physician for a child or grandchild, but when selecting a physician for themselves, they rank “proximity of office from home” as the most important factor behind “covered by insurance plan.” The survey reveals similar findings for those who are responsible for finding a physician for an adult family member. In those cases, respondents rank “bedside manner/empathy” as the most important factor behind “covered by insurance plan” when selecting a physician for an adult family member, but for themselves, they rank “proximity of office from home” behind “covered by insurance plan.”

Finding Dr. Right Resources

To find more information about questions to ask when choosing a physician, details on access to health insurance coverage through programs under the Affordable Care Act, and searchable physician directories, visit  

About the Survey

The AOA survey results are being announced during OMED 2013, the Osteopathic Medical Conference & Exposition. The conference, which begins Monday, Sept. 30, will be held through Friday, Oct. 4, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

The survey was conducted from Sept. 14 to Sept. 16, 2013. A total of 1,099 respondents completed the online survey. A sample size of 1,099 has a margin of error of approximately ± 3.0% at the 95% confidence level.

About the American Osteopathic Association

The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) proudly represents its professional family of more than 104,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities. More information on DOs/osteopathic medicine can be found at


Media Contacts:   

Nicole Grady
(312) 202-8038

Vicki Martinka
(312) 202-8159

Twitter: @AOAforMedia



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