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Male or Female Doctors: Who Will Patients Listen to More?

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"Physicians need to be conscious that their own demographic characteristics."

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A new study suggests that male doctors could stand to take some pointers from female doctors when it comes to giving advice to some patients.

A recent study found that patients are more likely to agree with the advice of female doctors over males. (Photo credit: Shutterstock) A recent study found that patients are more likely to agree with the advice of female doctors over males. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

The study from researchers at the University of Toulouse III in France found that patients, overall, are more likely to take nutrition and exercise advice from female doctors, rather than males.

The researchers looked at how gender bias affected the reception of guidance given by doctors to 585 patients and found male and female patients generally agreed with the advice given by female doctors. Advice given by male doctors, however, was not as well received.

According to Reuters, the study found men were four times more likely to disagree with male doctors on nutrition advice and twice as likely to disagree with exercise recommendations, compared to male patients who had female doctors.  

"Physicians need to be conscious that their own demographic characteristics and perceptions might influence the quality of prevention counseling delivered to their patients," the study authors concluded in the research published in the journal Family Practice last month.

Julie Schmittdiel, a scientist with Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research who has conducted similar studies but was not involved with this research, told Reuters that "it’s more about communications training [than] it is about hiring practices."

Schmittdiel added that "[e]nhancing the physicians’ ability to communicate effectively can make a more productive visit and lead to improved outcomes,” regardless of the person's gender.

In a book published a few years ago — Practice Under Pressure: Primary Care Physcians and Their Medicine in the Twenty-First Century — author Timothy Hoff wrote that even doctors seemed to agree that patients preferred female physicians over males. Reasons for this included appearing to listen more, devoting more time to visits and having a nature that seemed to allow patients to open up more to them.

Previous studies support this as well. One published in the journal Patient Education and Counseling found patients spoke up more to female doctors rather than males and provided more information. Another published in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirmed that female doctors, on average, spoke more with patients and spent more time in appointments.

Front page image via Shutterstock.

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