Information regarding patient preferences is important to develop more diversity in healthcare providers. To our knowledge, no information exists regarding how patients choose their orthopaedic surgeon. The purpose of this study is to determine which demographic factors, if any, affect patient preferences when choosing an orthopaedic surgeon.
Five hundred new patients presenting to a large, urban, academic orthopaedic clinic from May 2011 to May 2013 were prospectively asked to participate in this study. Patients were asked to complete a survey designed with the help of the Division of Population Health that focused on demographic, professional and physical attributes of theoretical surgeons. Specifically, patient preference of surgeon age, gender, race, religion, importance of education prestige, training program prestige and number of medical publications were evaluated. Patients were then stratified by age, gender, race, religion, educational level and income level to assess whether their own demographics were related to their preferences. The data was then analyzed to determine whether correlations existed between patient preferences and their own demographics.
Five hundred patients agreed to participate in the study. There were 195 (39.0%) males and 281 (56.2%) females with an average age of 40.8 years (SD=20.5), 24 patients (4.8%) did not respond to the question. Two hundred and twelve (42.4%) patients were Caucasian, 116 (23.2%) were Hispanic, 53 (10.6%) were African American, 44 (8.8%) were Asian, 32 (6.4%) were listed as other and 43 (8.6%) did not answer. 78.0% of patients had no preference for their surgeon's gender, but for those who did, both men and woman preferred male surgeons (weak positive correlation, not statistically significant, r=0.096, p=0.373). The majority of patients (84.8%) had no preference for the race of their surgeon, but those that had a preference tended to prefer surgeons of their own ethnicity (p<0.001). With increasing patient education level, medical school, residency and fellowship training prestige had more importance as a selection criterion. Increasing patient education level also demonstrated a corresponding importance given to physician education and training as categorized by the perception of residency training program prestige (p=0.04). A majority of patients (84.0%) had no preference for their surgeon's religion, but for those who did there was a strong correlation (r=0.65), between the patients' own religion and that of the physician (p<0.001). There was universal agreement in perception that neither physician age nor years in practice made any difference as selection criteria when choosing an orthopaedic surgeon (p>0.05). Finally patient income level had no effect on specific criteria when choosing a surgeon.
The vast majority of patients surveyed had no preference in age, gender, race, or religion of their potential surgeon. However, patients who had preferences in these categories tended to choose surgeons of the same age, race and religion. These findings neither support or refute the need for diverse health care providers in the field of orthopaedics.