Sex of Physician as a Determinant of Psychosocial Problem Recognition

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With increasing scrutiny of the role of women in the medical profession, there has been speculation that women physicians provide more sensitivity and empathy to their patients. To compare the psychosocial awareness of female and male physicians, medical records were reviewed for 909 patient visits to six women and seven men who were first year family practice residents. Charts were audited for evidence of acknowledgement of 21 categories of psychosocial or sexual problems. Women physicians saw more patients than their male counterparts and had a higher percentage of visits from women patients (73 percent compared to 65 percent): Types of medical problems seen were similar for men and women physicians with 42 percent of patients noted to have at least one psychosocial or sexual problem. Recognition of problems did not differ significantly between men and women physicians. Women physicians found 44 percent of their female patients had at least one psychosocial problem compared to a 40 percent rate for men physicians seeing either male or female patients, but this small difference could have occurred by chance. When three family medicine faculty members were asked to rank the residents, their ratings were better predictors of psychosocial awareness than was the sex of the resident physician.

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