• patient satisfaction;
  • gender concordance;
  • female physicians

OBJECTIVE: To explore the role of the gender of the patient and the gender of the physician in explaining differences in patient satisfaction and patient-reported primary care practice.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional mailed survey [response rate of 71%].

SETTING: A large group-model Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) in northern California.

PATIENTS/PARTICIPANTS: Random sample of HMO members aged 35 to 85 years with a primary care physician. The respondents (N = 10,205) were divided into four dyads: female patients of female doctors; male patients of female doctors; female patients of male doctors; and male patients of male doctors. Patients were also stratified on the basis of whether they had chosen their physician or had been assigned.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Among patients who chose their physician, females who chose female doctors were the least satisfied of the four groups of patients for four of five measures of satisfaction. Male patients of female physicians were the most satisfied. Preventive care and health promotion practices were comparable for male and female physicians. Female patients were more likely to have chosen their physician than males, and were much more likely to have chosen female physicians. These differences were not seen among patients who had been assigned to their physicians and were not due to differences in any of the measured aspects of health values or beliefs.

CONCLUSIONS: Our study revealed differences in patient satisfaction related to the gender of the patient and of the physician. While our study cannot determine the reasons for these differences, the results suggest that patients who choose their physician may have different expectations, and the difficulty of fulfilling these expectations may present particular challenges for female physicians.