A large, new study published in JAMA Network found that your physician's gender could affect how well you fare while in the hospital. The study followed 171,625 patients in hospitals in Canada and found that those cared for by female physicians had a lower in-hospital mortality rate compared to patients treated by men.
Study participants were admitted to general medical wards in seven different hospitals in Ontario between April 1, 2010, and October 31, 2017. Researchers found that female physicians ordered more imaging tests, including computed tomography and ultrasounds, but that did not explain the difference in mortality. Patients treated by females, even after age adjustment, had a 4.8% in-hospital mortality rate compared to 5.2% for those treated by males.
According to Axios, while the difference is small, it highlights previous research showing that women have different techniques in caring for patients than men. Experts have found in previous research in the U.S. that female physicians tend to spend more time with patients, communicate better, and follow clinical guidelines more often than their male counterparts.
Women doctors are also more apt to collaborate with colleagues about their patient’s treatment in hospital settings, says Axios.
“Taken together, these differences in process may help to explain the modestly lower mortality rates among general medical patients treated by female physicians in ways that cannot be captured through electronic health records or administration data,” said the authors of the Canadian study.
The authors adjusted their data to include differences not only in gender between physicians but also in patient characteristics, medical school training or specialty. They said that male physicians typically had more training.
The current study reflects conclusions drawn by Harvard public health researchers who found that elderly patients were less likely to die or be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days if they were treated by female doctors rather than male, according to STAT News.
Harvard’s study found that, when treated by female internists, Medicare patients had a 4 percent lower relative risk of dying prematurely and 5 percent lower risk of being readmitted to a hospital within 30 days. Researchers examined outcome data between 2011 and 2014 on the eight most common conditions in seniors treated by general internists, including sepsis, pneumonia, congestive heart failure, and acute renal failure.
“We need to understand why these differences exist and figure out how to translate it to the broader population of physicians,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, a leading health policy researcher at Brown University School of Public Health.
The Canadian researchers said that more studies are needed to determine what processes of care and behavior of physicians may explain the differences in patient mortality associated with physician gender to understand and perhaps erase stereotypes.
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