Despite criticisms of the quality of health care for women and considerable research on sex differences in illness behavior and utilization of health services, little research has addressed the potential impact of physician gender on the physician-patient relationship and its outcomes. With the entry of more women into the medical profession, opportunities to investigate effects of physician gender will increase. A theoretical rationale for expecting physician gender to affect the key dimensions of the interactive physician-patient relationship (communication of information, affective tone, negotiative quality) and its outcomes (satisfaction, compliance, health status) is presented. Physician gender might impact on the relationship through three mechanisms: sex differences among physicians, particularly with respect to sex-role attitudes; patients' different expectations of male and female physicians; or increased status congruence between physician and patient in same-sex, as compared to opposite-sex, physician-patient dyads. Recent research related to these topics is discussed and found to support the plausibility of these mechanisms of potential gender effects. Some methodological suggestions for future research are presented, including the suggestion that future research identify specific conditions under which physician gender effects might be more salient.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health(social science)
- History and Philosophy of Science