Communicating under medical patriarchy: Gendered doctor-patient communication between female patients with overactive bladder and male urologists in Hong Kong

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Abstract

Background: Gender differences between patients and doctors markedly influence the quality of communication in treatment processes. Previous studies have shown that communication between patients and doctors of the same gender is usually more satisfactory, particularly for female patients. However, in Hong Kong, where urology is a male-dominated specialty, female patients typically require medical care from male doctors for diseases such as overactive bladder (OAB). The literature about gender-related doctor-patient communication predominantly involves people in non-Chinese communities, with few studies conducted with Chinese populations. However, the differences between Western and Chinese cultures are expected to result in different treatment and communication experiences. Furthermore, OAB has received little attention in many Chinese communities; few studies in the literature address the communication quality between OAB patients and their urologists in Chinese communities, particularly regarding female OAB patients' experiences when seeking treatment from male urologists. This study, therefore, investigated the doctor-patient communication between female OAB patients and male urologists in Hong Kong. Methods: This study adopted a qualitative research approach by conducting semistructured interviews with 30 female OAB patients on an individual basis from April 2012 to July 2012. The participants were purposively sampled from a patient self-help group for OAB patients in Hong Kong. Results: The participants' communication experiences with male urologists were unpleasant. Embarrassment, feelings of not being treated seriously, not being understood, and not being given the autonomy to choose treatment approaches prevailed among the participants. Furthermore, the perceived lack of empathy from their urologists made the participants' communication experiences unpleasant. Conclusions: The gender and power differential between the participants and their urologists, which was contributed by the social and cultural values of patriarchy and doctors' dominance in Hong Kong, made the participants' communication with the urologists unpleasant and difficult. Poor doctor-patient communication can endanger patients' treatment compliance and thus the treatment outcome. Although altering such social and cultural values would be difficult, providing complementary chronic care services, such as nurse-led clinics as well as support and sharing from patient self-help groups, might be a possible solution.
Original languageEnglish
Article number44
JournalBMC Women's Health
Volume15
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Communication
  • Female patients
  • Hong Kong
  • Male urologists
  • Overactive bladder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology

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