FRIDAY, Nov. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Advances in drugs and medical technology have greatly improved the ability to save lives, according to a survey of physicians in Pennsylvania.

The poll found that 76 percent of respondents agreed that their ability to save lives has "somewhat or greatly improved" over the last 20 years, and 79 percent said the same is true about their ability to extend and improve quality of life for patients with chronic diseases.

According to 81 percent of respondents, drug treatments have "somewhat or greatly improved," while 92 percent said the same about medical technology, the researchers at the Institute for Good Medicine at the Pennsylvania Medical Society reported.

The survey also found that more than 70 percent of respondents believe that patient knowledge has "somewhat or greatly improved." However, some of the physicians noted there is a difference between knowing about something and actually acting on it.

The improvements in drugs and medical technology, along with physicians' skills, have significantly improved patient care, according to institute founder Dr. Peter S. Lund.

"Good medicine today is practiced in an environment of constant progress and changing technology. While pharmaceuticals and new technology are the tools, they still require the expertise of physicians in order to be applied to individual patient needs," he said in a Pennsylvania Medical Society news release.

More than 565 doctors responded to the survey. The complete findings are published in the Institute for Good Medicine's 2010 Good Medicine report.

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality offers a guide to health care quality.