Once, during a painful examination, a female gynecologist snapped at me, "You think this is hard for you? Imagine how I feel." According to a tidbit in the Times today, I might be better off with a male doctor.
A female doctor writes that "several studies have shown that female doctors tend to be more encouraging and reassuring, use shared decision-making, ask more psychosocial questions and spend more time - up to 10 percent more - with patients than male doctors do." Of course, perspectives on this differ by the patients' gender, and there is one interesting exception where the patient is always a woman: gynecology.
Perhaps the most interesting finding in these studies of gender in the patient-doctor relationship involves male doctors who practice obstetrics and gynecology. While this group of male physicians has been shown to be significantly better than their female colleagues at showing empathy and talking to patients about their emotional concerns, many of their patients continue to have a strong preference for female doctors.
There isn't much more detail, although one could imagine that male ob-gyns try harder to bond with their patients because they don't take the connection for granted. One commenter on the Times' Well blog cites personal experience for why shared femaleness might actually hamper a patient-doctor relationship:
On the other hand, by her own account, this woman didn't have much luck with male doctors either. And re-reading Doree Shafrir's classic "Gynos Say The Darndest Things," (it originally appeared in Radar and is still preserved online here) shows that harrowing and discomforting experiences happen in this realm regardless of the doctor's gender. (My personal favorite: "I went to a gyno in L.A. who was Persian (there are lots of Persian Jews in Beverly Hills). He told me I had more of Persian vagina/hair layout than Ashkenaziâ?? I guess because I hadn't waxed?"). So what's going on here? Is doctor-patient communication any worse in this realm than the rest of medicine? Do we just hear about it more because conversations about vaginas and sexual health are still so difficult to have?