Aug 3, 2020 - Health

The pandemic is boosting the public's view of doctors

Reproduced from Kaiser Family Foundation; Chart: Axios Visuals
Reproduced from Kaiser Family Foundation; Chart: Axios Visuals

The coronavirus pandemic is leading Americans toward a more favorable view of doctors, according to our KFF polling.

Why it matters: New appreciation for frontline health care workers — expressed in polling as well as yard signs and nightly applause from apartment windows — could help boost morale within the medical profession and perhaps get young people more interested in specialties that aren’t usually the most lucrative.

By the numbers: Back in 2005, just 17% of Americans said physicians were mostly interested in working for the public good, while 31% said they were mostly interested in making money.

  • This month, 36% of Americans say doctors are mostly interested in the public good, and just 10% say they are mainly about making money.

Between the lines: The profession isn’t seen as completely altruistic: Most of the country — 54% — say doctors care equally about money and the public good.

  • And doctors are still far behind nurses; 60% of people see nurses as mostly motivated by caring for the public good.
  • Doctors are still doing a lot better than pharmaceutical companies and insurers; only 4% of the public say they care primarily about the public good.
  • The many knowledgeable physician-scientists on national and local TV every day talking about the pandemic may also be enhancing the image of doctors with the public.

My thought bubble: Doctors are earning a lot of goodwill right now, but don’t expect the public to cut them too much slack. People are struggling with medical bills and frustrated by their experiences with the health care system, and the pandemic has only heightened cost anxieties.

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