Trust in Pharma, Hospitals Plummets: Gallup Poll

Significantly less than half of respondents thought pharmaceutical companies provided good care, while little over half thought physicians did.
Trust in Pharma, Hospitals Plummets: Gallup Poll
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Amie Dahnke
12/21/2023
Updated:
12/21/2023
0:00

American trust in pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and other medical services is falling, according to results from a November Gallup poll.

Gallup’s 2023 Health and Healthcare Survey asked American health care consumers to rate their satisfaction with provider types within the medical system. Almost 70 percent of respondents did not believe pharmaceutical companies provided good care, and about 40 percent thought doctors did not provide good care. Nurses, however, earned most people’s favor.

Approval Ratings for Pharma, Hospitals Dropping

Many health care services and providers have fallen in rank over the past 20 years, including pharmaceutical drug companies, which, in 2003, 53 percent of respondents viewed as providing excellent or good care; hospitals, which 70 percent believed provided excellent or good care; and physicians, who received an approval rating of 81 percent. In 2023, pharmaceuticals, hospitals, and physicians earned approval from 33 percent, 58 percent, and 69 percent of respondents, respectively.

Health insurance companies also experienced a dip in favor from 2010 to 2023; 42 percent of poll respondents thought health insurance companies provided excellent or good care in 2010; 13 years later, only 31 percent believe that.

Gallup noted the changes are likely due to higher health care costs and staff shortages. The pandemic and associated COVID-19 vaccine mandates are also potential factors that could account for the attitude shifts.

As of 2022, about 4 in 10 U.S. adults said the high costs of medical care have forced them to delay or go without needed treatments, KFF Health reported. The same number also reported medical debt due to medical or dental bills.

Most Adults Would Not Be Comfortable Living in Nursing Homes

Only 25 percent of survey respondents, down from 29 percent in 2003, said that nursing homes provide excellent or good care, while 37 percent said the care provided is poor.
According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), over 1.2 million Americans live in 15,000 nursing homes; that number is expected to increase to 2.3 million by 2030 as the Baby Boomer generation ages. Most of these homes are skilled nursing facilities, which enable residents to receive long-term care for physical or mental illnesses or injuries.
The national sentiment in the November Gallop poll toward nursing homes is consistent with a West Health–Gallup poll conducted in July 2023 that found 7 in 10 adults would be very or somewhat uncomfortable with living in a nursing home if they could not care for themselves. The main reason? The quality of care, according to 70 percent of poll respondents, followed by cost and fear of losing independence.

Nurses Are a Silver Lining

Within the medical system, nurses are the most trusted providers, with 82 percent of poll respondents saying nurses provide excellent or good care, according to the November poll. Nurses have maintained a high level of trust within the medical system; in 2003, 85 percent of poll respondents ranked them as providing excellent or good care, and in 2010, 88 percent did so. Thus, nurses have consistently topped the list of medical care providers, which includes physicians, hospitals, insurance companies, pharmaceutical drug companies, urgent care clinics, and nursing homes.
This maintained trust comes despite a concern within the profession about burnout, impacted mental health, and lack of support, according to a 2022 survey of 2,100 American nurses conducted by Nurse.org.

The survey found that 9 in 10 nurses believed the nursing shortage that began with the COVID-19 pandemic is worsening and that burnout, poor working conditions, and inadequate pay are primary concerns. Seventy-nine percent of respondents also said their organizations were inadequately staffed.

In the Gallup survey, physicians ranked second highest at 69 percent, followed by hospitals at 58 percent. Nursing homes ranked at the bottom of the medical system, with only 25 percent of poll respondents saying the institutions provide excellent or good care, followed by health insurance companies at 31 percent and pharmaceutical companies at 33 percent.

Trust in U.S. Institutions Eroding

Despite some bright spots, American trust in the U.S. medical system has neared an all-time low, according to results from a separate Gallup poll several months ago.
The poll, conducted each June, asks Americans to rank their confidence, faith, or trust in 14 U.S. institutions, from small businesses, big businesses, and banks to public schools, the presidency, and newspapers.

Across the board, public confidence has waned since 2022 in nearly every category except television news, newspapers, the criminal justice system, the presidency, the U.S. Supreme Court, and organized religion.

Faith in the medical system has continued to drop over the past two years, falling from 44 percent in 2021 to 34 percent in 2023. The 2023 ranking is just three points away from the institution’s all-time lowest ranking of 31 percent approval, which it received in 2007.

Despite its eroding reputation, the medical system ranked as one of the most trusted institutions in the United States today, along with small business (65 percent), the military (60 percent), the police (43 percent), and organized religion (32 percent).

Amie Dahnke is a freelance writer and editor residing in California. She has covered community journalism and health care news for nearly a decade, winning a California Newspaper Publishers Award for her work.
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