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Physician Gender Effects on Preventive Screening and Counseling: An Analysis of Male and Female Patients’ Health Care Experiences

Henderson, Jillian T. MPH; Weisman, Carol S. PhD

Original Articles

Background.  Studies have documented that patients of female physicians receive higher levels of preventive services. However, most studies include patients of only one gender, examine mainly gender-specific screening services, and do not examine patient education and counseling.

Objectives.  This study tests both physician- and patient-gender effects on screening and counseling services received in the past year and considers effects of gender-matched patient-physician pairs.

Research Design.  Multivariate analyses are conducted to assess direct and interactive (physician × patient) gender effects and to control for important covariates.

Subjects.  Data are from the 1998 Commonwealth Fund Survey of Women’s Health, a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults. The analytic sample includes 1,661 men and 1,288 women ages 18 and over.

Measures.  Dependent variables are measures of patient-reported screening and counseling services received, including gender-specific and gender-nonspecific services and counseling on general health habits and sensitive topics.

Results.  Female physician gender is associated with a greater likelihood of receiving preventive counseling for both male and female patients. For female patients, there is an increased likelihood of receiving more gender-specific screening (OR = 1.36, P <0.05) and counseling (OR = 1.40, P <0.05). These analyses provide no evidence that gender-matched physician-patient pairs provide an additional preventive care benefit beyond the main effect of female physician gender.

Conclusions.  Female physician gender influences the provision of both screening and counseling services. These influences may reflect physicians’ practice and communication styles as well as patients’ preferences and expectations.

Department of Health Management and Policy, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

The survey on which this analysis is based was funded by The Commonwealth Fund, New York, New York. Jillian Henderson was supported by a “Public Health and Aging” research training grant from the National Institute on Aging [T32-AG00134].

The opinions expressed are those of the authors only.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Jillian Henderson, Department of Health Management and Policy, University of Michigan School of Public Health, 109 S. Observatory, Room M3050, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-2029. E-mail: jthender@umich.edu

Received February 15, 2001; initial review April 16, 2001; accepted August 7, 2001.

© 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.