Context: Female physicians have a more patient-centered practice style than male physicians, and patient satisfaction is predicted by a more patient-centered practice style.
Objectives: To assess whether there is a difference in patients' satisfaction with male versus female physicians and to examine moderators of this effect.
Data sources: MEDLINE and PsycINFO databases and citation search through 2009, using keywords pertaining to patient satisfaction and physician sex.
Study selection: English-language articles that compared patients' satisfaction in relation to their physicians' sex. Only studies of actual patients and physicians, including postgraduate trainees, were included. Forty-five studies reporting 28 effect sizes met inclusion criteria.
Data extraction: Two coders independently extracted effect sizes (point-biserial correlations) and coded study attributes, then resolved disagreements through discussion.
Results: The satisfaction difference between male and female physicians was extremely small (r < 0.04), but was statistically significant (P < 0.05) in a random effects model. Significant moderators showed that the difference favored female physicians most when physicians were less experienced, when physicians and patients were newly acquainted, when satisfaction pertained to a specific visit, when satisfaction was measured right after a visit, and when patients were younger. There was also significant variation depending on where satisfaction was measured.
Conclusions: Female physicians are not evaluated as highly by their patients, relative to male physicians, as one would expect based on their practice style and patients' values. Reasons for this disparity are discussed.