To determine whether and when patients prefer a female or male general practitioner (GP).
A total of 24,430 patients registered in the Care Panel [Zorgpanel] of the Dutch patient federation [Patiëntenfederatie Nederland] received an e-mail with a questionnaire. The questionnaire consisted of 50 questions divided in different themes such as contact with GPs, differences between male and female GPs, sensitive topics and free choice of doctors.
The questionnaire was completed by 7,019 patients of whom 26.7% indicated that there are differences between female and male GPs. Empathic practices were more often attributed to female GPs. Women more often prefer a GP of their own sex than men (38.9% vs 12.8%), especially for problems involving sexuality and private body parts. Patients prefer to discuss psychological symptoms with a female rather than a male GP (16.3% vs 4.4%). Embarrassment to discuss symptoms with a GP and embarrassment regarding physical examination by doctors of the opposite sex were more common in women than in men (p < 0.001) but decreased with age. 8% of the respondents indicated that they had occasionally postponed a GP consultation because they were reluctant to discuss a symptom with a GP of the opposite sex.
The majority of respondents feel there is no difference between female and male GPs. Women tend to feel embarrassed more often at the GP but this feeling decreases with age. To prevent patients from unnecessarily delaying their GP visits, it is important to know whether the patient prefers a female or a male GP.
Conflict of interest and financial support: potential conflicts of interest have been reported for this article. ICMJE forms provided by the authors are available online along with the full text of this article.