A patient preference for physician gender has been demonstrated in many areas of medicine, but has not previously been examined in the field of gastroenterology.
Writing in the August issue of the journal, Dr Shyam Varadarajulu and colleagues assessed patient preference, if any, for endoscopist gender, and compared the degree of preference expressed by men and women.
Prior to undergoing procedures, 150 patients scheduled for colonoscopy were asked to complete 2 sets of questionnaires.
The questionnaires were completed anonymously, and consisted of a pre-procedure questionnaire and a post-procedure questionnaire.
The first asked whether patients had a preference for an endoscopist of a particular gender and also attempted to assess to what degree this preference was felt, by recording their willingness to wait until an endoscopist of their preferred gender became available.
The post-procedure questionnaire assessed durability of response by asking patients who had expressed a gender preference about a possible change in their attitudes after completion of the examination.
The response rate for examination of the questionnaire was 100% (80 women, 70 men).
Among women, 45% (36 out of 80) expressed a gender preference (34 for a female and 2 for a male endoscopist).
In contrast, only 4.3% (3 out of 70) of men had any preference for an endoscopist of a particular gender.
|Gender preference for their endoscopist:|
10x more women than men had one
| Gastrointestinal Endoscopy |
More than 90% (32 out of 34) of the women patients who had expressed a pre-procedure gender choice said they were willing to wait until an endoscopist of the preferred gender was available.
When questioned following the procedure, the attitudes of all patients who had previously expressed a gender choice remained unchanged.
In an accompanying editorial, Dr Grace H. Elta of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA, highlights previous findings that have shown improved rates of screening for cervical and breast cancer among patients of female physicians.
Cautioning that it is not known whether the reported physician gender preference of many women is significant enough to interfere with their willingness to undergo screening colonoscopy, Dr Elta wonders whether having a choice of a woman endoscopist may improve rates of colon cancer screening for women.
She warns, " If so, there are too few women gastroenterologists to fill this need", and adds, "Patient preferences for gender of their physician and the reasons for those preferences deserve further study."