Purpose: Women may prefer female physicians, particularly for preventive health services. We assessed national trends in the proportion of women among patients seeing female physicians, and compared visit characteristics and preventive services among visits to female and male primary care physicians.
Methods: We assessed the characteristics of 92,389 visits from the 1995-2000 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, a nationally representative survey of office-based physicians in the United States, using linear and logistic regression.
Results: Female physicians were more likely than male physicians to see female patients in the specialties of primary care (73% vs. 56%), psychiatry (72% vs. 54%), dermatology (67% vs. 56%), and pediatrics (52% vs. 46%; P <0.01 for all). In primary care, the difference increased over time, such that by 2000, 78% of visits to female primary care physicians were from women, compared with 56% for male primary care physicians (P <0.01). Female primary care physicians saw younger patients (mean age, 45 vs. 49 years, P = 0.04), reported longer visits (19 vs. 17 minutes, P <0.01), and reported performing more preventive services than did male primary care physicians when seeing female patients, including Papanicolaou testing (11% vs. 4.7%, P <0.01) and mammograms (9% vs. 4%, P <0.01).
Conclusion: The phenomenon of sex concordance between patient and physician has increased in recent years, particularly in primary care. Nearly four of five patient visits to female primary care physicians are from women, and female physicians report performing more preventive health services for their female patients.