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Patient Educ Couns. 2002 Dec;48(3):201-6.

Gender differences in health care provider-patient communication: are they due to style, stereotypes, or accommodation?

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  • 1Department of Speech Communication, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-4234, USA.


This article examines gender differences in health care provider-patient communication within the framework of an ecological model of communication in the medical encounter. The ecological perspective posits that, although health care provider-patient interactions are situated within a number of contexts (e.g. organizational, political, cultural), the interpersonal domain is the primary context within which these interactions unfold. Hence, gender may influence provider-patient interaction to the extent that it can be linked to the interactants' goals, skills, perceptions, emotions, and the way the participants adapt to their partner's communication. The evidence reviewed in this essay indicates that gender differences in medical encounters may come from several sources including differences in men's and women's communicative styles, perceptions of their partners, and in the way they accommodate their partner's behavior during the interaction. However, because gender is but one of many personal and partner variables (e.g. age, ethnicity, personal experiences) that can influence these processes, gender differences are often quite modest (if apparent at all) when examined across a population of health care providers and patients. Implications for future research and communicative skill training are discussed.

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