Hospitalized Patients Treated by Female Doctors Show Lower Mortality
From the Seattle Municipal Archives
by Gaius Publius
We're getting off the Trump Train for a minute for something remarkable. I was bowled over by the results of this study and wanted to pass them on. From the Harvard School of Public Health:
Hospitalized patients treated by female physicians show lower mortality, readmission ratesThere's more. The sickest patients appear to benefit most from treatment by female doctors:
Boston, MA – Elderly hospitalized patients treated by female physicians are less likely to die within 30 days of admission, or to be readmitted within 30 days of discharge, than those cared for by male physicians, according to a new study led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It is the first research to document differences in how male and female physicians treat patients result in different outcomes for hospitalized patients in the U.S.
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 study was published online December 19, 2016 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
“The difference in mortality rates surprised us,” said lead author Yusuke Tsugawa, research associate in the Department of Health Policy and Management. “The gender of the physician appears to be particularly significant for the sickest patients. These findings indicate that potential differences in practice patterns between male and female physicians may have important clinical implications.”The study offers some clues as to why this is the case, noting that "for example, female physicians are more likely to adhere to clinical guidelines and provide more patient-centered communication." But it also notes that much more information is needed.
For example, "patient selection" is not a factor: "When the researchers restricted their analysis to hospitalists — physicians focused on hospital care, to whom patients are randomly assigned based on work schedule — the results remained consistent, suggesting that patient selection, in which healthier patients might choose certain types of doctors, didn’t explain the results."
One of the differences between male and female doctors is that, as you might imagine, women doctors are paid less and promoted less frequently. Another, noted above, is their communications styles tend to differ, with female physicians communicating in a more "patient-centered" manner.
It's not known, though, whether these factors account for the difference in outcomes. "There was ample evidence that male and female physicians practice medicine differently. Our findings suggest that those differences matter and are important to patient health. We need to understand why female physicians have lower mortality so that all patients can have the best possible outcomes, irrespective of the gender of their physician," said senior author Ashish Jha.
Indeed. The data for the study included information from more than one million Medicare patients, and their experiences are remarkable: "[I]f treated by a female physician, [patients in our study] had a 4% lower relative risk of dying prematurely and a 5% lower relative risk of being readmitted to a hospital within 30 days."
Something to consider, perhaps, as you consider your own treatment options and those of your loved ones.