A Survey of Patient Perspectives on Approach to Health Care: Focus on Physician Competency and Compassion

J Patient Exp. 2020 Dec;7(6):1044-1053. doi: 10.1177/2374373520968447. Epub 2020 Oct 28.


We conducted a cross-sectional, survey study of 764 volunteers to gain insight into patients' perceptions of physician qualities of compassion and competence. Among 651 (85% response rate) survey participants, mean age was 52.4 (SD 21.4) years, 70.8% (n = 458) were female, and 84% (n = 539) identified as white. Predictors of compassion over competence included female gender (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 1.4, 95% CI: 1.04-1.89) and whether the respondent had a personal connection to the vignette (aOR = 1.24, 95% CI: 1.0-1.53). Thematic analysis demonstrated that preferences were influenced by: (a) explicit beliefs regarding the value of physician compassion and physician competence; (b) impact of emotional and mental health on medical experiences; (c) the type and frequency of health care exposure; and (d) perceived role of the physician in various clinical vignettes. Patients had wide-ranging, complex opinions on the qualities they valued in their physicians. These findings suggest that patients are engaged and can provide critical thoughtful feedback on the practice and delivery of health care.

Keywords: competence; patient perspectives/narratives; physician; physician compassion; relationships in health care.