Older patients tend to fare better with female doctors, study shows

Women account for just one-third of US physicians, but the results of a new study suggests that's not the only gender gap in medicine.

The patients of female doctors are also less likely to be re-hospitalized in the month after discharge, according to the study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Data from more than 1 million Medicare patients hospitalised with a medical condition and treated by nearly 60,000 doctors between 2011 and 2014 were analysed.

The study reported that mortality rates for sepsis were more than 2 percent lower among patients treated by female physicians, and about 1 percent lower for those treated for heart arrhythmia and pneumonia.

PATIENTS who are treated by female doctors are less likely to die than those treated by male doctors, according to new research. The report said that number would presumably be larger if the trend holds for non-Medicare patients. However, some have suggested that factors such as career interruptions for childbearing and high-rates of part-time employment, may justify higher salaries for male physicians, despite research suggesting female physicians may provide better care.

"Female physicians are more likely to adhere to clinical practice guidelines". They also spend more time with patients, talk with them in more reassuring and positive ways and ask more questions about their emotional and social well-being.

Jha says there's also some evidence from other industries that men are more likely to take risks, which could explain why the benefit of having a female doctor is especially pronounced in sicker patients.

The researchers estimated that if male physicians could achieve the same outcomes as their female colleagues, there would be 32,000 fewer deaths each year among Medicare patients alone-a number comparable to the annual number of motor vehicle accident deaths nationally.

The findings, published online December 19 in JAMA Internal Medicine, do not prove that women are better doctors. That might not seem like a big difference, but the costs add up quickly when applied to tens of thousands of patients with these conditions. Just over 15 percent were hospitalized again within 30 days, versus about 15.6 percent of patients treated by a male internist. Divide them into two piles based on the gender of the doctor.

The Washington Post helpfully points out that this poses a rather stark contrast to the fact that male doctors are paid an average of $20,000 more than female doctors. "I want us to try to understand why this difference exists and what that means for improving hospital care", said Dr. Ashish Jha, a professor of health policy at the Harvard School of Public Heath and co-author of the study. We think that these differences in practice patterns may explain better patient outcomes for female physicians. The female physicians tended to be younger--their average age was 42.8 years, compared with 47.8 for men.

The team tried to account for some of the variables, such as the possibility that people who choose female doctors may do better for various reasons.

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