Consultations for women's health problems: factors influencing women's choice of sex of general practitioner.


AIM. This study set out to examine the degree to which women choose to visit a woman doctor for women's health problems and the determinants of this choice. The differences between women and men doctors with regard to treating women's health problems were also studied. METHOD. Data from the Dutch national survey of general practice were used. All group practices with both women and men general practitioners were selected. Analyses were restricted to consultations among women aged 15-65 years about menstruation, the menopause, vaginal discharge, breast examination and cervical smear tests. RESULts. Given the size of their female practice population, women doctors saw considerably more women with women's health problems than did their male colleagues. Women were more likely to consult a woman general practitioner if she was more available (that is, working longer hours), and younger women were more likely than older women to choose women general practitioners. Sex differences in the treatment of women's health problems were small and mainly related to the verbal part of the consultation: counselling and providing information. The doctors' availability and their certainty about the working diagnosis explained differences in the verbal aspects of consultations. Women general practitioners had longer consultations than their male colleagues mainly because more health problems were presented per consultation. CONCLUSION. In order to increase the possibility of patients choosing women general practitioners, policy should be directed towards the education of more women general practitioners and women general practitioners should be encouraged to work more days a week.

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