Physician Gender and Its Association With Patient Satisfaction and Visit Length: An Observational Study in Telemedicine

Cureus. 2022 Sep 14;14(9):e29158. doi: 10.7759/cureus.29158. eCollection 2022 Sep.

Abstract

Introduction Female physicians conduct longer visits than male physicians, with negative implications for their compensation. Yet patients often report higher satisfaction with female physicians. It is unknown whether satisfaction scores for female physicians are associated with their visit lengths. Our objective was to characterize the role of the physician and patient gender with respect to visit length and patient satisfaction. Methods We conducted an observational cohort study with patients and physicians of a nationwide telemedicine service between 2016 and 2018. Visit length was measured by the telemedicine system. Patients rated physicians on scales of one to five stars, with five considered "top box" satisfaction. We used logistic regression to estimate differences in patient satisfaction and linear regression to estimate differences in visit length by the physician and patient gender. We tested interactions between physician and patient gender and accounted for clustering by the physician. Results Among 102,664 visits with 405 physicians, the mean visit length was 5.8 minutes. Visits with male physicians were 1.11 minutes shorter than those with female physicians (95% CI:-1.58, -0.65). Controlling for visit length, male physicians were less likely than female physicians to receive top-box satisfaction scores (OR: 0.72; 95% CI: 0.61, 0.85). Visits between female physicians and male patients were the longest and visits between male physicians and female patients were the shortest. Female physicians had longer visits than male physicians but this did not explain their higher satisfaction scores. Conclusions To reduce inequity in compensation resulting from differences in visit length, female physicians could shorten their visits without negative consequences for their satisfaction ratings.

Keywords: gender differences; patient satisfaction; physician compensation; telemedicine; visit length.