A new study reveals your doc’s gender may matter more than you think
When choosing your next doctor, selecting a woman instead of a man might make a major difference. Patients are more likely to die, or be readmitted to the hospital, if their physicians are male, a new study done by public health researchers at Harvard University discovered.
Researchers looked at three years of patient records in the United States, choosing a random sample of over 1 million Medicare recipients (aged 65 and over) hospitalized from 2011 to 2014. They focused on male and female doctors in the same healthcare and hospital systems, and adjusted for variables like physician age, medical training, and years of experience.
After crunching the data, researchers found that regardless of the cause of hospitalization, patients had fewer readmissions and lower mortality rates when treated by female physicians. Although the difference was just half a percentage point, that adds up to 32,000 total patients living longer or avoiding a second trip to the hospital each year.
The difference was especially significant with some conditions, including pneumonia, sepsis, congestive heart failure, chronic pulmonary disease, urinary tract infections, acute kidney failure, arrhythmia, and gastrointestinal bleeding.
Although the study was done on elderly patients, the results would likely hold true for younger folks, too, study researcher Ashish Jha, M.D., told WGBH News.
So what are women doctors doing that male doctors might not?
Researchers noted that women physicians are more likely to adhere to clinical guidelines, provide preventive care more often, and use more patient-centered communication than male doctors.
However the study stopped short at definitively saying that there was something about medical care from females that caused decreased mortality—just that the outcomes seemed linked to physician gender, with women having the edge when it comes to lower mortality and fewer readmissions.