A new released data concerning a patient’s chances of survival and the gender of their physician. The study stated that patients who were treated by female doctors had a higher probability to leave the hospital alive than male doctors. The study included older patients, 65 years or older who were hospitalized and treated by general physicians between January 1, 2011, to December 31, 2014. The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, concluded that elderly hospital patients treated by female physicians had lower mortality and re-admissions compared to those with male doctors.
According to The New York Times, the differences were small: 11 percent of patients who saw a female physicians died within 30 days of being admitted to the hospital, while 11.5 percent of patients treated by male physicians died within 30 days. Notably, the Boston research team were all male. Estimations from the team stated that there would be about 32,000 less deaths if male doctors performed at the same level as female doctors.
Dr. Ashish Jha, lead author, internist, and Harvard Medical School professor said that patients should not avoid male physicians. But Dr. Jha stated that male doctors should take cues from the tendencies of women doctors. This may lead to better care. Female doctors are more likely to follow stated treatment guidelines than men, more often provide preventive care, and have better communication with patients.
The researchers wanted to understand the reasons behind the differences and also to share their findings with other doctors to improve patient care, no matter their gender. The research team utilized data from more than 1.5 million Medicare patients who were hospitalized. The illnesses these patients suffered from were heart failure, intestinal bleeding, pneumonia, lung disease, and urinary infections. All of the patients were treated by general physicians. Comparing results, the researchers looked at patients who were cared by female physicians versus their male counterparts. Those patients discharged had better survival chances and were less likely to be re-admitted to the hospital within 30 days.
One dissenting voice, Dr. Lisa Schwartz of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice stated that the study did not prove anything. She went on to say that information from physicians’ practice was needed. Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, a Dartmouth policy analyst, called the results of the study “intriguing” but required further study. This was not, Dr. Welch said, “something for patients to act on” in choosing between male and female doctors. This study may open doors between male and female doctors sharing care tips that will benefit patients.
By Cheryl Werber