Source: The Mercury, Thursday, May 23, 1996, p.3


Doctor's
sex may
be the
main
ailment

MALE doctors are likely to 
give a different diagnosis to 
female doctors- even 
when patients' symptoms 
are the same, a new study 
shows. 
 
   The Sydney University 
study of Australian general 
practitioners found femme 
doctors will tend to diagnose 
more pyschological and 
social problems than men. 
 
   The world-first study 
extrapolated data from 
113,000 consultations across 
the nation. 
 
   The main author of the 
study, psychologist Dr 
Helena Britt of the 
university's family 
medicine research unit, 
said male doctors tended to 
diagnose muscular-skeletal 
and respiratory problems. 
 
   "If you visit a female GP, 
you are more likely to be 
diagnosed with a 
pyschological problem, such 
as depression, which so many 
of us suffer, and not 
necessarily to a clinical 
degree," she said. 
 
   "They are also likely to 
inquire about social 
problems and stresses caused 
by marriage and children. 
 
   "Why this is so, we are not 
sure." 
 
   The study has used odds 
ratios to show women 
doctors were 1:15 times 
more likely to diagnose 
social problems than male 
doctors 
 
   "If you expand that 
over the 96 million cases 
GPs see each year, it is 
quite significant," she said. 
 
   Other studies around the 
world had shown that female 
patients tended to see female 
doctors and male patients 
male doctors. 
 
   "It has always been 
assumed that doctors will 
diagnose differently because 
of the patients they are presented 
with, but it is just not true, 
she said. The study found 
women doctors tended to 
treat psychological and 
social problems as well as 
the female genital and repro- 
ductive systems. 
 
   Male GPs treated more 
male genital, skin and 
respiratory problems, as 
well as muscular-skeletal 
and circulatory complaints. 
 
   This was largely because 
of patient choice, but Dr 
Britt said if doctors 
continued to concentrate 
on specific problems, 
there WAS a danger they 
could be lacking 
experience in some areas. 
 
   "It could get to the stage 
where they are so 
inexperienced in treating 
certain things they just 
refer it to another doctor. 
 
   "The question we have to 
ask is 'do we want that?' 
 
   "At the moment, 30% of 
Australian GPs are 
female, and it is likely to 
soon be 50%, " she add. 
 
   Dr Britt said she was keen 
to examine further why 
doctors diagnosed 
differently, but was 
hampered by lack of suitable 
data. 
 
   The study has been 
published in the American 
Journal Medical Care.


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