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Female Docs Better With Patients

Women communicate better, spend more time with their patients, new research finds

TUESDAY, Aug. 13, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- When it comes to relationships, women are considered better communicators than men.

The same appears to be true in medicine.

A study in tomorrow's Journal of the American Medical Association says primary-care doctors who are women tend to spend more time with their patients and have more positive, social and emotionally focused discussions with their patients than male doctors do.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Northeastern University came to that conclusion after reviewing previous studies about doctor communication.

"Our review found that female physicians more often engage in communication that we would consider more patient-centered, and broadly relates to the larger life context of the patient's conditions. They do this by addressing psychosocial issues through questioning and counseling and more emotional and positive talk," says study author Debra L. Roter, a professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"Doctors are supposed to be considered doctors first, but we know that men and women communicate differently. The results are consistent with what we would expect in everyday life," Roter says.

She and her colleagues searched online databases for doctor-communication studies done between 1967 and 2001. They analyzed 23 observational studies and three large physician-report studies.

While there was a difference between female and male doctors in their personal-emotional communication with patients, the study found no gender differences in the amount, quality or manner of medical information offered to patients.

The study also found patient visits with female doctors were about 10 percent longer than those with male doctors.

More information

The Harvard Medical School has gathered a handy reference list of questions to ask when you visit your doctor.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, news release, Aug. 14, 2002
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