The impact of gender, gender attitudes, and communication on patient satisfaction during medical visits

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Child and Family Studies


Jaipaul L. Roopnarine


Health education, Public health, Womens studies, Social psychology, Health care, Gender

Subject Categories

Gender and Sexuality


The influence of physician and patient gender on patient satisfaction with medical visits has been unclear. Some research suggests that male and female patients are more satisfied with visits to female physicians (Lewis, Scott, Pantell & Wolf, 1989), others contend that patients are more satisfied with male physicians (Hall, Irish, Roter, Ehrlich, & Miller, 1994b).

A recent investigation of opposite and same-gender patient-physician pairs revealed that overall patient satisfaction was lower for female compared to male physicians, and lowest with female physician-male patient pairs (Hall et al., 1994b). The investigators speculated that patients devalued female physicians on the basis of gender bias.

The present study extends previous efforts by including a measurement of patients' gender bias. Medical encounters were observed of 15 male and 15 female 1st to 3rd year family medicine residents with 30 female and 30 male patients known to the physicians. Physician-patient communication as a function of gender of physician and of patient, and the relationship between patient satisfaction, physician communication, and attitudes toward women were examined.

Female physicians used an "affiliative" style of communication (friendly, interested, positive behaviors), in contrast to male physicians who used a "control" style of communication (using power and status to control the tone of the interaction) during medical visits (see Buller & Buller, 1987). Patient-physician communication did not differ significantly as a function of gender of physician or gender of patient. During the first minute of the visit there were no significant gender of physician or gender of patient communication differences.

Female physicians' use of psychosocially oriented talk, and male physicians' use of disapproval statements were positively and negatively associated with patient satisfaction for the entire and first minute of the visit, respectively. Overall patients were more satisfied with female than male physicians while espousing similar views on gender-stereotypes.

It is hypothesized that patients expect family medicine physicians to behave in an affiliative/communal manner--a style more often associated with women than men. Patients may have perceived better gender-concordance for female physicians practicing medicine than male physicians, influencing their satisfaction ratings.


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