Objective: There is considerable interest in the influences on patients' ratings of physicians.
Methods: In this cross-sectional study, patients (n = 4616; age range: 18-65 years) rated their level of satisfaction with their primary care physicians (n = 96). Patients and physicians were recruited from primary care practices in the Rochester, NY metropolitan area. For analytic purposes, length of the patient-physician relationship was stratified (< or =1, 1-4, > or =5 years). Principal components factor analysis of items from the Health Care Climate Questionnaire, the Primary Care Assessment Survey and the Patient Satisfaction Questionnaire yielded a single factor labeled "Satisfaction" that served as the sole dependent variable. Higher scores mean greater satisfaction. Predictors of interest were patient demographics and morbidity as well as physician demographics and personality, assessed with items from the NEO-FFI.
Results: Patients treated by a physician for 1 year or less rated male physicians higher than female physicians. This gender difference disappeared after 1 year, but two physician personality traits, Openness and Conscientiousness, were associated with patients' ratings in lengthier patient-physician relationships. Patients report being more satisfied with physicians who are relatively high in Openness and average in Conscientiousness. Older patients provide higher ratings than younger patients, and those with greater medical burden rated their physicians higher.
Conclusion: Patients' ratings of physicians are multidetermined. Future research on patient satisfaction and the doctor-patient relationship would benefit from a consideration of physician personality. Identifying physician personality traits that facilitate or undermine communication, trust, patient-centeredness, and patient adherence to prescribed treatments is an important priority.
Practice implications: Learning environments could be created to reinforce certain traits and corresponding habits of mind that enhance patient satisfaction. Such a shift in the culture of medical education and practice could have implications for patient care.