Does Gender Play a Role in Provider Care?

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MVF-thumb2There are many battles being fought in healthcare today. We haven’t kept track of all of them necessarily, but going from memory, there are the obvious ones: the federal government vs. hospitals, physicians, and other healthcare professionals; physician extenders vs. physicians; physician practices vs. hospitals; healthcare executives vs. physicians…

What are we missing?

Oh, right.

A gender war.

Jeffrey Kluger of Time magazine stirred some rather ominous stew last week when a headline blared, “Women Make Better Doctors Than Men: A gender divide in a field that was once overwhelmingly male.”

According to a University of Montreal report, “Investigators found that women outperformed men on certain metrics of patient care,” Kluger writes, with the report’s authors basing this on 870 Quebec male and female physicians who were brought in to care for diabetes patients.

As Kruger notes, “A chronic condition, diabetes can be controlled only via constant vigilance to maintain proper blood-sugar levels; that requires periodic visits to the doctor and good compliance with taking a range of medications.”

The report wanted “to compare if a doctor’s gender affected patient behavior, the researchers evaluated  physicians on three parts of standard diabetes treatment: prescribing periodic eye exams, scheduling frequent physical check-ups and keeping their patients on some mix of three different medications, such as statins to control cholesterol.”


The women beat the men.

But you already knew that.

It turns out, the women were better at complying with practice guidelines and were also “more likely than men to prescribe recommended medications and to plan required examinations.”

According to the article, here’s what the report authors felt were the possible reasons for this disparity: “It’s possible the female doctors were simply more willing to devote more time to their patients. The men tended to cycle their patients though quickly—as evidenced by [the] fact that the male doctors performed, on average, 1,000 more basic treatment procedures per year than the women. But that seeming efficiency may be self-defeating: the investigators worry that the quicker the turnover in any one doctor’s office, the likelier a patient is to return to have questions answered or treatment details explained that weren’t addressed in the initial appointment.”

The researchers aren’t stopping their studies with diabetes patients. They want to see if these gender-based differences hold true in three other contexts: hypertension, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). And they also noted, “The younger the doctors in their study were, the narrower the divide between the sexes, suggesting that hurry-up male doctors are aging out of the system, being replaced by a newer, gentler generation.”

So here is where things get touchy. As healthcare executives, have you noticed a gender difference in how care is administered and in the quality of that care? In what ways? Why do you think this difference exists?

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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