Physician gender affects communication

Female physicians, on average, spend more time with patients than male doctors, according to Medscape's 2011 Physician Compensation Survey. While most of the 16,000 surveyed doctors (24 percent of men and 22 percent of women) reported that they spend 13 to 16 minutes with a patient, the survey revealed that women are more likely to spend more than 16 minutes with a patient (50 percent) than their male counterparts (42 percent). But it's not just the length of patient encounters that necessarily matters, experts say, but the quality of the conversations that occur.

Medscape's survey isn't the first to reveal that female physicians tend to spend more time with patients. A 2002 study authored by Debra Roter, PhD, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Judith Hall, a psychologist at Northeastern University, for example, found female docs to spend about 10 percent more time with patients. In addition, Roter and Hall found female physicians were much more likely to engage in "patient-centered" interviewing, which involved more actively seeking patient input, counseling, and learning about the context of patients' home lives that may affect care.

As a result, Roter said that female doctors in primary care do more counseling in preventive or self care, and are more successful at getting patients to have preventive care screenings.

Despite the general differences in communication styles, however, there is no indication that a physician's gender or the amount of time spent with a patient affects outcomes, Medscape reports. Nonetheless, experts contend that all physicians can and should work to improve their communication skills.

To learn more:
- read the article from Medscape Today