The impact of gender dyads on doctor-patient communication: a systematic review

Patient Educ Couns. 2009 Sep;76(3):348-55. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2009.07.010. Epub 2009 Aug 3.


Objective: Systematic review of evidence about the impact of gender dyads on clinician-patient communication.

Methods: Search of Medline, CINAHL and PsychINFO (1960-2007) and the British Library of grey literature, and hand searching of Patient Education and Counselling and Social Science and Medicine (2005-2007), returning 648 articles. Ten studies met all inclusion criteria.

Results: Gender dyads influenced the patient agendas elicited, talk content, communication style, non-verbal communication, the exhibition of power, and consultation length. Consultation length was studied and affected by gender dyads more frequently than any other phenomenon. Distinctive differences between the dyads were identified, largely as expected, but with some surprises. For example, female/female dyads were the most patient-centred, and had longer consultations containing the most talk. However they also contained the most bio-medical talk.

Conclusion: The evidence base is small, and a more rigorous approach to reporting quality indicators is needed. However, observed dyad differences may provide different opportunities for effective communication and clinical outcomes for patients. Further research with a primary focus on gender dyad effects is needed to test this.

Practice implications: Findings have implications for policy, healthcare organisations, and individual doctors alike, raising awareness about workforce issues and communication skills training needs in particular.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Sex Factors
  • United States