Characteristics of exceptionally good Doctors—A survey of public adults

Christoph Schnelle*, Mark A. Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
54 Downloads (Pure)



Systematic reviews have found that doctors can have a substantial effect on patients’ physical health, beyond what can be explained by known factors. In a previous qualitative study, 13 medical doctors were interviewed on their experiences of exceptionally good doctors, and all had met at least one such doctor. 


To determine how common it is for exceptionally good doctors to be encountered by patients and what are the characteristics of exceptionally good doctors. 


Mixed methods cross-sectional survey of 580 Amazon Mechanical Turk participants. Questions included doctor and participant demographics, and 34 Likert questions on characteristics of exceptionally good and average doctors. Free-text questions allowed participants to describe exceptional doctors, record their experience, and provide survey feedback. Stratified sampling ensured gender parity and 33% of participants aged ≥55 years. Analysis included descriptive statistics, statistical modelling of associations between Likert scale scores and patient demographics, and factor analysis. 


Of 580 responses, 505 (86%) were included in the analysis. Factor analysis confirmed internal validity. Most respondents (86%) had met at least two exceptionally good doctors, of whom 55% were specialists. 58% of respondents regarded doctors as exceptional based on an overall impression with multiple reasons. Doctors were most commonly considered exceptional based on one or more of their personality, diagnostic, or intervention ability. Respondents who reported the doctors “willingly listened to them to the end” scored their doctors higher on 33 of 34 Likert questions, except for popularity. They also rated average doctors lower throughout. 


Exceptionally good doctors appear to be commonly encountered by the adult public. Listening to patients willingly to the end is a highly rated and influential characteristic, suggesting that listening could be targeted for quality improvement.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13115
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes


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