New Study Suggests Patients Under The Care Of Female Doctors Have Better Chances

This is small but significant finding.

New Study Suggests Patients Under The Care Of Female Doctors Have Better Chances

A new study showed that patients treated by women had lower mortality and readmission rates than those treated by men in the same hospital.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found "significantly lower" mortality rates — 11.07 percent vs. 11.49 percent— for patients treated by women. Researchers also found that patients treated by the women had lower readmission rates as well (adjusted readmission rate, 15.02 percent vs. 15.57 percent).

These numbers may sound small, but they are significant. The authors of the study estimate that "approximately 32,000 fewer patients would die if male physicians could achieve the same outcomes as female physicians every year."

"Studies have found differences in practice patterns between male and female physicians, with female physicians more likely to adhere to clinical guidelines and evidence-based practice," authors of the study wrote. "However, whether patient outcomes differ between male and female physicians is largely unknown."

To arrive at their findings, the researchers looked at over a million patients who were 65 years or older, hospitalized and using Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries. They followed the progress of those patients for three years.

This study is part of a larger conversation happening around women's role in medicine.



John Gomez / Shutterstock, Inc.
John Gomez / Shutterstock, Inc.

A recent Huffington Post article highlighted a clear pay gap between sexes, citing another JAMA study that showed an estimated annual discrepancy in pay of $20,000 between male and female academic physicians. Other studies have shown women are promoted more slowly and fare worse during peer reviews.

And that's just during the practice of medicine.

At universities, women only make up 21 percent of the professors and 16 percent of the deans inside United States' medical schools. That number is even more concerning when you consider that women make up about half of all medical school students and residents. 

Most recently, women have begun speaking out about the discrepancy in how they are treated in the workforce vs. their colleagues. A study published in the academic journal Springer Link concluded that "medical schools have failed to create and sustain an environment where women feel fully accepted and supported to succeed." 

Fortunately, things are trending in the right direction. The proportion of women who are full-time professors in medical schools has increased seven percent since 2003, and the gender pay gap, nationally, is closing (despite lots of work to do). 

The National Center for Biotechnology Information website has a list of seven actionable steps to advance women in science, engineering and medicine on its website. They include incorporating implicit bias statements into external program review processes and creating an institutional report card for gender equality.

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Cover photo: Shutterstock / bikeriderlondon.

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