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Female physicians more emotionally focused and 'patient-centered' when communicating with patients

g, and emotionally focused talk compared to their male counterparts. However, there were no gender differences in the amount, quality, or manner of biomedical information giving, which includes discussion about diagnosis, medical treatment, and prognosis, or in social conversation.

The review also found that medical visits with female physician were about 10 percent longer than visits with male physicians. Five out of ten observational studies and all three physician-report studies examined showed significantly longer length of visits for female doctors. On average, women spent 23 minutes with their patients compared to 21 minutes for men.

The researchers noted that the findings did not hold true for obstetrics and gynecology, where male doctors spent more time with patients and demonstrated higher levels of emotionally focused talk compared to female physicians. They added that few studies looked beyond primary care physicians and that more research is needed to determine gender-related practices among subspecialty physicians. None of the studies reviewed linked communication skills to clinical outcomes.

"Even though the differences we found were real, there appears to be a great deal of overlap in the communication styles of both male and female physicians, because the effects we uncovered were not large in magnitude. There is room for both men and women to improve their interview styles and to be open to education efforts. Other research demonstrates that physicians can be trained in their interview style. These differences in communication are a product of our society, but they are not unchangeable," explained co-author Judith A. Hall, PhD, professor of psychology at Northeastern University.


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Contact: Laura Schmidt
l.schmidt@neu.edu
617-373-5739
Northeastern University
13-Aug-2002


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