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 x 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.