The effect of physician gender on length of patient consultations: observational findings from the UK hospital setting and synthesis with existing studies

J R Soc Med. 2015 Apr;108(4):136-41. doi: 10.1177/0141076814558522. Epub 2015 Jan 7.


Objectives: To investigate the effect of physician gender on consultation length in UK hospital outpatient clinics and compare this, through meta-analysis, with previous studies outside the UK.

Design: Observational data on clinic times were analysed and findings were combined in a meta-analysis with existing studies investigating the effect of physician gender on consultation length.

Setting: UK hospital practice.

Participants: A total of 174 observations of outpatient consultations with 10 hospital specialists (consultants) from different specialties in two UK hospital trusts.

Main outcome measures: Clinic times were recorded and analysis of consultation length was undertaken with physician gender as a covariate. Data were then synthesised through meta-analysis with 10 existing studies in this field.

Results: No statistically significant difference was found in the length of consultations for male and female doctors in these UK hospital settings. When pooled with existing studies, consultations with women doctors were found to be approximately two minutes longer than with men (p = 0.01).

Conclusions: Findings from this analysis of clinic consultations in the UK National Health Service do not support previous studies, which were undertaken predominantly in North America and primary care settings. Overall, meta-analysis suggests doctors' gender may influence consultation length. Gender differences in communication should be considered in training clinicians and in overall clinical practice.

Keywords: physician gender; physician–patient communication.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Outpatient Clinics, Hospital*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Time Factors
  • United Kingdom