Does it matter if your doctor is male or female?By Veita Bland, M.D. / February 24, 2017
We all have our preferences in life. Some of us prefer ice cream while others prefer cake. While others, must have them both to be happy. A preference is a term that is used in relation to choosing between alternatives. It is evaluating a choice or liking or disliking an object or situation.
These preferences may not be stable and may change over time. Some of us are partial to the color purple while others prefer the color red. Ten years ago your favorite color may have been blue. Some may have always worn their hair strait but with the changing mores of the community that same person may now prefer to wear their hair in a natural style most of the time but on occasion want to straighten it out. So, preference is not stable and may be affected by a person’s surrounding, geographical location, cultural background, religious beliefs and education.
The medical profession is a caring field. Certainly things are changing, but many patients often expect the hands-on care to come from a female. Most patients are more comfortable with a female cleaning their bodies, changing their clothing and if needed, feeding them. Certainly a male could do that exact job just as competently as any female but what would the preference be for that patient? Would he or she prefer a female or male and how would that affect their perception of the care given? Would they be as comfortable with a male or female? How would that play, if at all into the equations of improved health for that individual?
How do individuals select their doctors or health care providers? Does it matter if they are male or female? Do they feel more comfortable sharing private information more with a male or female? Do males prefer males or do females prefer females?
This is a question again that is changing as society changes. When there were few female health care providers, people preferred males as that was what they knew. As more and more female health care providers are around, we see for some a changing of the guard. Some people do not care as long as they are competent. Some prefer females due to their perception, right or wrong, of a more pleasing bedside manner. Some people prefer a male to provide their health care.
A recent study conducted at the Harvard University School of Public Health in Boston examined the care provided by male and female internal medicine physicians. The researchers looked at over one million patients looking to see if the care of female or male physicians was better than the other. They wanted to see if the readmission to hospitals and the mortality rate was affected by the gender of the physician. They discovered that female physicians had a lower readmission rate and mortality rate.
The researchers found that if male physicians could acheive the results of the female physicians there would have been 32,000 fewer deaths. They were unsure as to why this discrepancy existed and noted that further study in this area would be warranted.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on North Carolina A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. Email Dr. Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org.