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Long-term relationships with physicians are highly valued, but challenging, Zocdoc survey shows

Survey shows physicians are held to similar or higher standards as significant others when it comes to starting, maintaining a relationship.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

Just in time for Valentine's Day, a new survey from digital health platform Zocdoc shows it's not just the world of romance that idolizes long-term relationships. The majority of Americans, including millennials, value a long-term relationship with their physician as well. However, as in love, maintaining that long-term match can prove challenging.

Zocdoc's new report, "Match Made in Medicine: A Peek into America's Doctor-Patient Relationships," was conducted by Kelton Global in early January as an online survey of 1,025 Americans 18 years old and over.

Results showed that 82 percent of Americans have had an ongoing relationship with their doctor, with the average length being 9.4 years. The trend holds true for millennials too, as 78 percent believe that a long-term relationship with their doctor is important.

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The catch to a long-term doctor-patient match is that these relationships too come with "bumps in the road." For example, 41 percent of Americans think it is more difficult to maintain a long-term relationship with a doctor than with a romantic partner, especially millennials. Nearly half of them, or 47 percent of them, say it is difficult to maintain long-term doctor relationships compared to 36 percent of baby boomers.

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Still,  Zocdoc pointed out that research has shown better doctor-patient relationships positively impact healthcare outcomes and are key in both a patient's journey and a doctor's. In fact, patient relationships serve as the primary source of job satisfaction for physicians, the company said.

Interestingly, survey results showed physicians are held to similar standards as significant others when it comes what it takes to maintain the match, and in some cases, what patients are willing to tolerate from their partners in health as opposed to their partners in life can differ.

First, 43 percent of Americans want a doctor with a sense of humor and 26 percent feel appearances matter. Also, women are more likely than men, 59 percent compared to 45 percent, think it is important that their doctor is well-liked by others.

Whether it's a first date or first appointment, a great first impression is a must, but it is especially true for physicians. For 82 percent of respondents, it is important for a doctor to ask good questions, whereas only 59 percent felt that was key to a good first date. A doctor making them feel comfortable mattered to 80 percent compared to 76 percent on a first date. Punctuality is key on their first doctor visit for 78 percent, as opposed to the 61 percent who feel a romantic interest should be on time for a first meetup.

When it comes to second chances, they are harder to come by for doctors than love interests, as nearly 72 percent of Americans would be more willing to give a date a second chance than a doctor.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn