Physician gender effects on preventive screening and counseling: an analysis of male and female patients' health care experiences

Med Care. 2001 Dec;39(12):1281-92. doi: 10.1097/00005650-200112000-00004.


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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Counseling / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians, Women / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Preventive Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sampling Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • United States