Gendered Care: An Analysis of Health Interactions

Mary E. Campbell, Texas A&M University
David Biagas, University of Iowa

Female patients benefit from higher quality communication than male patients in interactions with their physicians, including receiving more information and interpersonal intimacy. Is this the result of female patients demanding more from physicians, or the result of physicians’ stereotypes about male and female patients? This field experiment tests whether gender differences in physician-patient interaction remain when patient self-selection and differences in patients’ needs are eliminated. Examining N=318 surveys and N=225 videorecorded interactions between medical students and standardized patients, we find that some real-world differences disappear in the randomized field experiment (such as the gender gap in the total time of the interaction), but some differences remain (such as disparities in the patient’s subjective experience and the physician’s verbal dominance). We use these discrepancies to test which aspects of the gender gap are likely driven by patient behaviors and responses, and which are driven by physician bias.

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Presented in Session 6: Gender Issues in Health and Mortality