Preventive care for women. Does the sex of the physician matter?

The New England Journal of Medicine
N LurieK Margolis


Emphasis on ensuring women's access to preventive health services has increased over the past decade. Relatively little attention has been paid to whether the sex of the physician affects the rates of cancer screening among women. We examined differences between male and female physicians in the frequency of screening mammograms and Pap smears among women patients enrolled in a large Midwestern health plan. We identified claims for mammography and Pap tests submitted by primary care physicians for 97,962 women, 18 to 75 years of age, who were enrolled in the health plan in 1990. The sex of the physician was manually coded, and the physician's age was obtained from the state licensing board. After identifying a principal physician for each woman, we calculated the frequency of mammography and Pap smears for each physician, using the number of women in his or her practice during 1990 as the denominator. Using unconditional logistic regression, we also calculated the odds ratio of having a Pap smear or mammogram for women patients with female physicians as compared with those with male physicians, controlling for the physician's and the patient's age. Crude rates for Pap smears and mammography were higher for the patients of femal...Continue Reading


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