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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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VA Study Finds Not All ED Patients Comfortable with Both Male and Female Health Care Providers

September 5, 2007

HOUSTON – Researchers at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) have found that while the gender of health care providers is not a concern for all men seeking treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED), there is a clear bias toward male providers among those who have an opinion. The study, by Robert Tan, M.D., M.B.A., A.G.S.F., Extended Care Line clinical director, Maurita Carrejo, M.S., Extended Care Line health science research specialist, and Justin Balla, M.D., a former MEDVAMC extern, appeared in the July 26, 2007 issue of International Journal for Impotence Research.

“We investigated whether a preference by men regarding the gender of a health care provider to manage erectile dysfunction may be a factor in the diagnosis and care of this condition,” said Tan. “ED, many times, has a broader medical significance for patients and is an area of increasing interest in the medical field.”  

A brief questionnaire was completed by 1,087 adult males in a primary care setting at the MEDVAMC. The questionnaire explored provider gender preference and other possible biases. The prevalence of ED in the 40-69 age group in the surveyed population was 68.8 percent. The prevalence was 81 percent in the age group of 70 and older. Of those who reported having experienced ED, only 51.5 percent had discussed it with a provider and 28.1 percent had been treated.

Approximately, 57 percent expressed no provider gender preference, regardless of history of ED. Of those who had a preference, approximately 75 percent preferred male providers. Most veterans surveyed believed males and females were equally qualified to manage ED. However, among those who did have an opinion about the qualification of providers, males were viewed more favorably. Addressing this discrepancy in perception may become an area of further work for the group.  

The International Journal for Impotence Research has the highest citation index for research in this area. This particular research initiative is the largest study on ED in veterans to date and the second largest study on ED in the United States.

“The study also confirmed the issue of privacy during the discussion of ED was very important to the respondents in this study,” said Carrejo. “The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center serves as an important teaching site for medical students, residents, and other health care students. We always strive to balance the privacy concerns of our patients with our teaching mission. This will be an area or further investigation for the research group.”

The study, which began in 2004, was funded by the Consortium for the Study of Erectile Function and approved by the Institutional Review Board of the MEDVAMC and Baylor College of Medicine.

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