Uncovering patients’ biases toward characteristics of anesthesiologists may inform ways to improve the patient–anesthesiologist relationship. The authors previously demonstrated that patients prefer anesthesiologists displaying confident body language, but did not detect a sex bias. The effect of anesthesiologists’ age on patient perceptions has not been studied. In this follow-up study, it was hypothesized that patients would prefer older-appearing anesthesiologists over younger-appearing anesthesiologists and male over female anesthesiologists.
Three hundred adult, English-speaking patients were recruited in the Preanesthesia Evaluation and Testing Center. Patients were randomized (150 per group) to view a set of four videos in random order. Each 90-s video featured an older female, older male, younger female, or younger male anesthesiologist reciting the same script describing general anesthesia. Patients ranked each anesthesiologist on confidence, intelligence, and likelihood of choosing the anesthesiologist to care for their family member. Patients also chose the one anesthesiologist who seemed most like a leader.
Three hundred patients watched the videos and completed the questionnaire. Among patients younger than age 65 yr, the older anesthesiologists had greater odds of being ranked more confident (odds ratio, 1.92; 95% CI, 1.41 to 2.64; P < 0.001) and more intelligent (odds ratio, 2.24; 95% CI, 1.62 to 3.11; P < 0.001), and had greater odds of being considered a leader (odds ratio, 2.62; 95% CI, 1.72 to 4.00; P < 0.001) when compared with younger anesthesiologists. The preference for older anesthesiologists was not observed in patients age 65 and older. Female anesthesiologists had greater odds of being ranked more confident (odds ratio, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.13 to 1.87; P = 0.003) and more likely to be chosen to care for one’s family member (odds ratio, 1.80; 95% CI, 1.40 to 2.31; P < 0.001) compared with male anesthesiologists. The ranking preference for female anesthesiologists on these two measures was observed among white patients and not among nonwhite patients.
Patients preferred older anesthesiologists on the measures of confidence, intelligence, and leadership. Patients also preferred female anesthesiologists on the measures of confidence and likelihood of choosing the anesthesiologist to care for one’s family member.
The effects of anesthesiologist age and sex on patients’ perception of competence and leadership remain unknown
The authors used standardized videos of male and female actors and younger and older actors portraying anesthesiologists
Older actors were rated as more confident and intelligent and were more often selected as leaders, but only among patients aged less than 65 yr
Female actors were rated as more confident and were more likely to be selected to care for a family member, but only among white patients
Age and sex both influence patient perceptions of desirable characteristics in anesthesiologists, and perceptions differ as a function of patient characteristics