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Are Female Doctors Better than Male Doctors?

By Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on October 21, 2013

Are Female Doctors Better than Male Doctors? A new study suggests female doctors provide better quality of care than their male counterparts.

However, University of Montreal researchers discovered the productivity of males is greater.

Investigators reached this conclusion by studying the billing information of over 870 Quebec practitioners (half of whom were women) relating to their procedures with elderly diabetic patients.

“Women had significantly higher scores in terms of compliance with practice guidelines. They were more likely than men to prescribe recommended medications and to plan required examinations,” said lead study author and graduate student Valérie Martel.

To assess quality of care, the researchers relied on the recommendations of the Canadian Diabetes Association, which provides clear guidelines for clinical treatment of the disease.

All patients aged 65 and over with diabetes must undergo an eye exam by an ophthalmologist or optometrist every two years. They must also receive three prescriptions for specific drugs, including statins, and it is recommended they undergo a complete medical examination annually.

Quebec has a public health insurance board that maintains a medical-administrative data bank on every medical procedure. Researchers were able to use this database to measure the variables. In each case, statistical tests confirm a significant difference between men and women.

Among middle-aged doctors, three out of four women, for example, required their patients to undergo an eye examination vs. 70 percent of their male counterparts.

Seventy-one percent prescribed recommended medications compared to 67 percent of male doctors, and a similar proportion prescribed statins (68 percent vs. 64 percent).

Thirty-nine percent of female doctors specifically asked their patients to undergo a complete examination (vs. 33 percent of male doctors).

Meanwhile, in terms of productivity, on average, male doctors reported nearly 1,000 more procedures per year compared to their female counterparts.

Martel’s study includes a section on clinicians’ age.

“My hypothesis was that the differences between male and female practices have diminished over time. It seemed to me that more and more men are taking time with their patients at the expense of productivity, and more and more women tend to increase their number of procedures.

“This aspect was shown: The younger the doctors, the less significant the differences,” she said.

“People assume that women doctors spend more time with their patients, but it is difficult to observe in a scientific study. This study does just that,” said co-author Régis Blais, Ph.D., professor at the Department of Health Administration.

Nevertheless, he cautions against misinterpreting the results. While a more productive doctor would seem more “profitable” for a hospital, there is more than meets the eye in the long term.

“Doctors who take the time to explain problems to their patients may avoid these patients returning after a month because they are worried about a detail. More productive physicians may not be the ones we think,” Blais said.

In the context of the feminization of the medical profession, the results “should be of concern of decision-makers in terms of human resource planning in health and the challenges posed by the increased prevalence of women,” the authors write in their conclusion.

“In particular, the cost-benefit ratio of greater quality combined with lower productivity should be examined.”

As more females enter the medical profession, a reorganization of the health system is therefore required.

“Gender parity has been recognized for several years among general practitioners. Among specialists, we’re almost there. However, women temporarily leave the network to start a family.

They work fewer hours to spend more time at home when they have children. Inevitably, this change has an effect on the management of resources. We need to prepare for these changes,” Martel said.

Co-author Roxane Borges Da Silva, Ph.D., agrees. “Our study lifts a corner of the veil on this issue and has several limitations.

“For example, it is not known whether medical prescriptions and recommendations for examinations are followed. But the differences remain significant. They tell us about the differences in medical practice that need to be taken into account.”

Source: University of Montreal

 

APA Reference
Nauert, R. (2013). Are Female Doctors Better than Male Doctors?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 30, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/10/21/are-female-doctors-better-than-male-doctors/60988.html