Poll: Patients Show Concern When Physicians Aren't Available to Lead Their Care

A March 2022 public opinion survey from the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and Morning Consult* shows that the vast majority of adults most trust a physician to lead their medical care, and many patients would be concerned if a physician was unavailable during their medical emergency.

It's clear that patients want physicians leading their care in a medical emergency. Emergency physicians have the deepest expertise, education, and training on a care team, and this makes them the most qualified to make diagnostic and treatment decisions for patients.

Very few adults prefer any of the other medical professionals to lead their emergency department medical care.

  • Eight-in-ten adults (79%) prefer a doctor/physician to lead their medical care while in the emergency department.
  • Nine-in-ten adults 65 and over (91%) prefer a doctor/physician to lead their medical care in the emergency department
  • After learning more about the training requirements for each of the medical professionals, adults still preferred a doctor/physician to lead their medical care in the emergency department.

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Most adults would be concerned if a physician wasn't available to lead their care in a medical emergency.

  • Nearly three-fourths of adults (72%) would be very or somewhat concerned if a doctor/physician was unavailable to oversee their diagnosing and treatment in a medical emergency.
  • Adults who believe the scope of practice for nurse practitioners and physician assistants should not be expanded show the most concern for emergency medical treatment without a doctor/physician overseeing the diagnosing and treatment.

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The laws that determine who can practice medicine without supervision differ across the country, so it can understandable that people are confused about who is providing their care.

  • Many people may not know that a physician assistant must always work under the supervision of a physician.
  • And, while a nurse practitioner can work independently in some states, in others the law requires that they are supervised by a physician for certain parts of their job.

It is important to remember that while everyone responsible for patient care is a qualified medical professional, physicians have the deepest expertise, education, and training.

  • An emergency physician is the only member of the care team that is required to complete a multi-year medical education and training program known as a "residency", where they learn to treat any illness, any injury, any unexpected complication.
  • Only physicians must past a series of exams to become board-certified in a specialty, such as emergency medicine.

Physicians should lead every emergency care team—which also comprises well-trained physician assistants and nurses, and essential professionals—because they are the most highly trained and qualified to make diagnostic and treatment decisions for patients.

 

*Methodology: This poll was conducted between March 10-March 12, 2022 among a sample of 2209 Adults. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of Adults based on gender, educational attainment, age, race, and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

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