Vitals Index: The Preference for Doctor Gender is Changing

For generations, men and women both preferred the traditional image of a doctor as a man. But that antiquated way of thinking is now a thing of the past. And the shift that’s taken place could lead to a shortage of preferred doctors as more people desire to be seen by a female doctor than ever before.

female doctor 300x199 Vitals Index: The Preference for Doctor Gender is Changing Photo

If you’re looking for a new doctor and prefer a woman, you’d better find one before the shortage increases.

According to the results of a survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Vitals, male and female physicians are both equally preferred among men and women age 18-55+.  But when broken down by age group, the preference for one gender over another becomes much stronger.

The preference for a female doctor rises from 50 percent among the general population to 71 percent among women age 18-34. Similarly, the preference for male doctors rises 22 percentage points among men age 55+ to 77 percent.

It’s not surprising that these demographics more strongly prefer seeing a physician of their own gender given the more intimate health issues they face, like pregnancy and reproductive health issues in 18-34 year-old women and prostate issues in 55+ men.

But when viewed in relation to what the gender makeup of practicing physicians currently looks like, these results suggest that the growing number of people who prefer a female physician could soon be out of luck.

According to Vitals data, there are only about half as many female physicians practicing in the US as male. And while this gender gap exists in every state, some states have a greater shortage of female physicians than others: women make up only 22.8 percent of doctors in Arkansas, 23.2 percent of doctors in Utah, and 23.5 percent of doctors in Mississippi.

Luckily, more women are becoming doctors than ever before. “The good news is that women make up the fastest growing demographic in the physician workforce today,” said Vitals CEO Mitch Rothschild. However, there will also be a much larger pool of patients competing for appointments with the enactment of the Affordable Care Act and the addition of 30 million new patients to the healthcare system. “The bad news is that, with the pending doctor shortage, female-led practices may not be able to keep pace with demand,” continued Rothschild. “Patients thinking of switching to women-run and women-focused practices should do so soon.”

For more information on the patient experience today, read the Vitals survey.