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Women prefer to see female doctors when they visit the ER, but men have no preference

Women who seek care at a hospital emergency department (ED) are more satisfied with their care when they see a female rather than a male doctor. However, men's satisfaction with care does not seem to be affected by the sex of their ED physician, according to a recent study supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (National Research Service Award training grant T32 HS00046). Lead author, Kathryn Pitkin Derose, M.P.H., of the University of California, Los Angeles, and her colleagues interviewed patients seeking care for nonurgent problems during a visit to one ED and again 1 week later to assess the association between their ratings of care and the sex of the ED physician who cared for them.

Women reported being significantly more satisfied with female than male doctors on four of seven satisfaction indicators. For example, 52 percent of women with female doctors said they trusted the doctor completely versus 39 percent of women with male doctors. More female patients with female than male doctors rated them as excellent in the amount of time spent with them (30 vs. 21 percent), concern shown (35 vs. 28 percent), and overall care (32 vs. 24 percent). Female patients did not rate male and female ER doctors differently in friendliness, respect shown, or the extent to which the physician made them feel comfortable. Male patients rated male and female physicians similarly on all dimensions of care. These results are surprising, since one would expect that all ED doctors, regardless of their sex, would be under similar time constraints. Also, the findings are similar to studies showing that same-sex physician-patient dyads tend to have longer visits than opposite-sex dyads, and that women are more likely to disclose more detailed information in female-female dyads.

The researchers note that with attention to this during training, male physicians may be able to learn how to better communicate with female patients. They urge other researchers and analysts to consider the interaction between physician and patient sex when measuring patient satisfaction.

More details are in "Does physician gender affect satisfaction of men and women visiting the emergency department?" by Dr. Derose, Ron D. Hays, Ph.D., Daniel F. McCaffrey, Ph.D., and David W. Baker, M.D., M.P.H., in the April 2001 Journal of General Internal Medicine 16, pp. 218-226.

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