A survey of thousands of patients in the U.S. finds that, overall, they are very satisfied with their physicians. Patients are distinguishing their experience with doctors and are separating it from possibly negative perceptions arising from factors beyond their physician's control such as insurance red tape.

"Particularly surprising is that even a lot of patients who reported average encounters with physicians, such as average national wait times and average physician encounter time, seem to be giving full marks to their physician in terms of visit satisfaction," said Rajesh Balkrishnan, lead study author and associate professor at the University of Michigan.

Researchers looking at data from 15,000 participants in online survey. The people being surveyed used a tool to rank visits to physicians from 2004 to 2010. Participants found an average overall satisfaction rating of 9.28 from a 10-point scale with 10 being highest.

Of those, 70 percent were scored at 10.

"The few highly publicized cases of dissatisfaction are what are driving common public perception. Public perceptions are influenced by various factors, including personal experiences, headline news stories, which are rarely flattering, and media images," said Balkrishnan.

Researchers pointed out that the overall high ratings for doctors show that a majority of patients understand factors beyond the physician's control such as insurance red tape.

The highest scores were given by older patients, patients with shorter waiting times, and those who reported spending more time with their physicians. Lower scores were given by patients who were younger, waited longer and spent less than five minutes with their physicians.

The study "Patient Satisfaction with Outpatient Medical Care in the United States" was published online in the journal Health outcomes Research and Medicine.