Are men less enthusiastic than women about seeing physicians of the opposite gender? Maybe, according to an analysis of more than two million primary care visits.
The study, which tracked patient visits on the athenahealth network between January and June 2014, looked at how many patients during that time frame were returning to a new practice within 18 months of their first visits.
Roughly half of the patients returned within that time if they shared their physicians’ gender. Women returned to male doctors at nearly the same rate. But only 40 percent of male patients returned to their female doctors.
That pattern was particularly true for patients with commercial insurance. While 52 percent of commercially insured male patients returned to their male physicians, only 40 percent returned to female physicians. For commercially insured women, return rates were 51 percent for female physicians and 48 percent for male physicians.
Medicaid was the only insurance type that showed no difference in return rates for men based on the gender of the physician.
Women have long been accustomed to male doctors: Even now, only about a third of practicing physicians are female. Male patients, meanwhile, have expressed reservations about visiting women doctors for some time.
But with changing physician demographics, men may start having trouble finding doctors of the same gender. Almost half of new medical school graduates are women, and they will represent a growing proportion of physicians who are accepting new patients.
As women achieve parity in medicine, any reluctant male patients will probably adjust. Indeed, in a recent exchange on Quora, male patients expressed their preference for female physicians on a number of bases, including superior listening skills and — for certain sensitive procedures — a lighter physical touch.