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AMA: Patients Lack Education on Physician Credentials

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, January 26, 2011

As further proof that Americans need to be enlightened on how to access effective healthcare, a new survey from the American Medical Association finds far too many patients don't know which providers have physician credentials, and which do not.

For example, asked whether an orthopedic surgeon or an orthopedist is a medical doctor, 12% said no. One-third of respondents said they do not think otolaryngologists are medical doctors.

The AMA's "Truth in Advertising Survey" survey also found that 83% of those surveyed want a physician to have primary responsibility for their healthcare and 90% believe that a physician's additional years of medical education and training (compared to those of a nurse practitioner) are vital to optimal patient care, especially in the event of a complication or emergency.

However, many of them can't accurately identify which providers are physicians and which aren't.

The AMA telephone survey asked 850 randomly selected people for their responses last November. The AMA said it was releasing the survey now in part to bolster support for proposed federal legislation that would require all healthcare providers who advertise their services to clearly designate their qualifications. The Healthcare Truth and Transparency Act of 2011 was introduced Tuesday by U.S. Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK) and Rep. David Scott (D-GA).

"Although 90% of those surveyed said that a medical doctor's additional years of education and training are vital to optimal patient care, the survey found much confusion about the qualifications of healthcare professionals," said AMA board member Rebecca Patchin, MD.

"A physician-led team approach to care with each member of the healthcare team playing the role they are educated and trained to play is key to ensuring patients receive high quality care, and most Americans agree," Patchin said.

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