Survey: Patients See 18.7 Different Doctors on Average

Practice Fusion surveys patients, highlights the inefficiency of paper records and the need for electronic medical records in the US.

SAN FRANCISCO, April 27 /PRNewswire/ -- American patients have seen an average of 18.7 different doctors during their lives, according to a survey conducted by GfK Roper for Practice Fusion, the free, web-based Electronic Health Record (EHR) company.  For patients over 65 years of age, the average increases to 28.4 individual doctors, including primary care, specialists, hospital and urgent care providers.


With the vast majority of medical records in the US still on paper and the average appointment taking 13 pages to document, this study reveals that the average patient's health is dependent on at least 200 pieces of paper in almost 19 different locations.

"Paper medical records are an absurd way to practice modern medicine," said Ryan Howard, CEO of Practice Fusion. "The average person has over a dozen charts of medical history scattered around the country. This is data that – if accessible – could save you from duplicate procedures, could improve the quality of care you receive or could save your life.  There are almost 200,000 deaths a year from preventable medical errors, partly because this information is not readily available to specialists and emergency rooms."

The Practice Fusion survey conducted by GfK Roper asked 1,035 adults aged 18 or older how many individual doctors they estimated they had seen in their lifetime, inclusive of all primary care, specialists, hospital and urgent care providers. The resulting averages exceeded predictions and illuminate a widespread disorder in the traditional paper medical record system.

The adoption of Electronic Health Record systems in US medical offices, driven in part by the economic stimulus plan, will reduce medical record chart duplication and orphaned records for patients. Practice Fusion offers a free, web-based EHR to any doctor in the US.  With charting, scheduling, e-prescribing, secure messaging and lab integrations, the EHR helps medical offices to improve the quality and efficiency of care.

Survey findings:

  • The average number of doctors seen for all survey participants was 18.7.  For 18-24 year olds, the average was 8.3. For patients over 65, the average was 28.4.
  • Women reported having seen more doctors on average (20.6) than men (16.7).
  • Patients with income under $20,000 a year reported seeing more doctors on average (22.4) than the patients with incomes over $75,000 a year (18.1).

Key facts:

  • Only 6.3% of physicians use a fully-functional Electronic Health Record system in their practice according to the CDC.
  • The average patient visit generates 13 pieces of paper and the average paper medical chart weighs 1.5 lbs according to the Institute of Medicine.
  • 195,000 deaths a year are attributed to preventable hospital medical errors according to HealthGrades.
  • At least 1.5 million Americans are sickened, injured or killed each year by errors in prescribing, dispensing and taking medications according to the Institute of Medicine.
  • Under the economic stimulus plan, eligible medical providers can receive $44,000 for using EHR systems.

Raw results from the survey are available upon request, along with physician and health IT expert sources.  As high as these averages are, it is assumed that patients have underestimated the total care providers they've seen; likely excluding anesthesiologists, radiologist, pathologists, physicians assistants, nurse practitioners, chiropractors, physical therapists from their estimates.

Survey methodology

The Practice Fusion survey was conducted via omnibus survey April 17-18, 2010. The GfK OmniWeb survey is a weekly national web survey of US households. Interviews were conducted from among a nationally representative sample of 1,035 adults age 18 or older.

About Practice Fusion

Practice Fusion provides a free, web-based Electronic Health Record (EHR) system to physicians. With charting, scheduling, e-prescribing, billing, lab integrations, unlimited support and a Personal Health Record for patients, Practice Fusion's EHR addresses the complex needs of today's healthcare providers and disrupts the health IT status quo. Practice Fusion is the fastest growing EHR community in the country with more than 36,000 users. and Morgenthaler Ventures each own a minority interest in Practice Fusion. For more information on Practice Fusion, please visit

About GfK Roper OmniWeb

GfK Roper OmniWeb Services deliver top-quality, up-to-the-minute insights enabling companies to stay in the forefront of today's rapidly changing marketplace. OmniWeb(SM) studies are the leading source of affordable and reliable decision support. For more information about GfK Roper OmniWeb Services, contact [email protected] or

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SOURCE Practice Fusion