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Do Men and Women Practice Medicine Differently?

Considering the gender gap at the doctor's office.

Helen Smith


April 23, 2014 - 8:24 am


That is a question posed by this CNBC article looking at the differences in how many services male and female doctors perform with Medicare patients:

The diagnosis: a serious case of medical gender gap.

Male doctors on average make 88 percent more in Medicare reimbursements than female physicians, according to an analysis of recently released government data, which suggests that the gender of a medical provider could play a role in the number of services they provide patients.

The NerdWallet research found that male physicians on average were paid $118,782 in Medicare reimbursements by the federal government in 2012, compared with $63,346 for women doctors.

Naturally, the “alarming” headline of the article is that male doctors are paid more in Medicare reimbursement than female doctors. However, the real question might be:

“This certainly begs the question of whether men and women practice medicine differently,” Ositelu said. “The bottom line is patients may experience higher costs through doctors who bill for more services per patient.”

Higher costs or tests run that save lives or just make them better? Why are more procedures worse? Maybe men are more willing to ask for procedures that their female counterparts do not? Also, note that men see many more Medicare patients, an average of 512 per male doc and only 319 per female doc. Why is that? Are females less willing to see Medicare patients or less able to take on more of them as clients? And if you see more patients, don’t you charge for more services? This is a troubling article, one that doesn’t look at the quality of medicine and the reasons behind why procedures are being performed, but rather, wonders why women docs are getting less money than men from the government Medicare program.


Cross-posted from Dr. Helen’s blog

image via shutterstock / Edyta Pawlowska 

Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee, and blogs at Dr. Helen.

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The article is not well informed. You cannot just break down Medicare reimbursement rates by male/female. The rates are the same. A female neurosurgeon or pediatrician is paid the same rate for the same billing code as a male.

You have to break it down by sub specialty, hours worked, and type of practice (private group, hospital or large group practice, employee, patient load and RVU demands etc.) to get any meaningful results.

I have been in this business for quite some time. Female physicians in my experience do not order tests or procedures any different than men do. Nor are they any more reluctant to perform interventional procedures than men are. If anything, those in highly skilled specialties like surgery or interventional radiology tend to be a bit tougher and more resilient than the guys.

You ask a good question Dr. Helen yet I see no research into the subject here. CNBC is hardly medical literature.

I would refer you to this data.

Table 3 breaks down sub specialty by gender. It is obvious that men and women differ significantly in choice of practice. That is your starting point.

45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Agree. This was just first thought after reading the paragraph beginning "Male doctors on average ...." In my geographic area, FAR more women are pediatricians and family practice physicians, and many if not most women doctors are part-time. The male doctors are more likely to be specialists. Who do you think old people see more often -- a pediatrician or a neurologist, a family practice doc or an oncologist? And how many Medicare patients will be seen by a pediatrician of ANY gender? Remember that Medicare is for old people, not for all ages.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
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