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Women's Health

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Centers specializing in primary care for women consistently deliver preventive services and have high patient satisfaction

A 2002 evaluation of the 15 National Centers of Excellence in Women's Health (CoE) found that women received better quality primary health care at CoEs than in other settings. Female physicians, who typically provide more preventive care and counseling than male physicians, tend to predominate the staff of CoEs. However, the better care women received at CoEs was not due to the greater number of female physicians, but rather to the focus on coordinated and comprehensive health care for women, according to a study supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS10237).

Researchers led by Jillian T. Henderson, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the University of California, San Francisco, examined the CoE effect on quality of care while controlling for physician sex to determine the extent to which the physician's sex contributed to CoE quality of care. They compared quality of care (receipt of age-appropriate clinical preventive services and women's ratings of satisfaction with care) of women seen in three CoE clinics with that of women seen in other settings in the same communities who had a female primary care doctor.

Women seen in CoEs were nearly three times as likely to receive physical breast examinations and nearly four times as likely to receive mammograms (for those 50 years and older) as women seen in other settings. They also were much more likely to be counseled on domestic violence, sexually transmitted diseases, family or relationship concerns, and sexual functions or concerns, and they were nearly three times as likely to report high satisfaction with care as women with female primary care doctors in other settings.

See "The role of physician gender in the evaluation of the National Centers of Excellence in Women's Health: Test of an alternate hypothesis," by Dr. Henderson, Sarah Hudson Scholle, Dr.P.H., Carol S. Weisman, Ph.D., and Roger T. Anderson, Ph.D., in the July-August 2004 Women's Health Issues 14, pp. 130-139.

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