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Consumers think it would help. More than 7 in 10 say quality would improve if doctors had to publicly report their patients’ health outcomes and how satisfied they are.

The AP-NORC Center poll found about 1 in 5 Americans recall seeing information comparing the quality of health providers in the last year. Nearly half aren’t confident they even could learn if their doctor had been disciplined. (Some state licensing boards offer free online searches; the Federation of State Medical Boards provides reports for a fee.)

In choosing a doctor, not surprisingly the top factor is insurance coverage, the poll found. For the uninsured, it’s cost.

Eight in 10 look for the doctor’s experience with a specific procedure. A nearly equal number say bedside manner - their impression after a face-to-face meeting and how much time is spent with a patient - is crucial. About three-quarters say a helpful office staff and how long it takes to get an appointment are important. A majority, 62 percent, also factor how long they sat in the waiting room.

Asked the characteristics of a high-quality doctor, a good listener is by far the top answer. Others value the right diagnosis, a caring attitude, a good bedside manner and knowledge, in that order.

“Some don’t even give you the time of day. They just look at you and write you a prescription,” said Vince Jimenez, 51, of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

When his primary care physician retired, Jimenez got a reference for a new doctor but checked online for complaints. “You can’t believe one person, but if there’s a bunch of people, if there’s a lot of complaints,” he said he’d pay attention.

Dartmouth’s Fisher said consumers should ask how the office - the doctor’s team - supports safe and effective care: Are patient outcomes tracked? Do they check on patients with chronic diseases between visits? Does the person taking after-hours calls know what medications you take?

“We tend to think, ‘Oh our friend had a great experience with this doctor.’ But I’d encourage people to think about the systems around that as well,” he said.

The AP-NORC Center survey was conducted with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which has financed projects to publicly report data on care quality.

It was conducted by telephone May 27 to June 18 among a random national sample of 1,002 adults. Results for the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points. It is larger for subgroups.

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Associated Press writer Stacy A. Anderson contributed to this report.

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