Female Doctors Are Better, Fewer Deaths Among Patients, Study Says

First Posted: Dec 21, 2016 05:00 AM EST

Patients who are treated by female doctors fare better than those treated by male doctors, a new study found.

In a recent research published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers at Harvard University reviewed the records of more than 1.5 million hospital visits among Medicare patients between 2011 and 2014. The data shows that patients treated by a female physician had a reduced risk that they would die within a month of their hospitalization. There was also a decreased likelihood of readmission within a month of their hospitalization.

In fact, they found that female physicians tend to provide higher-quality medical care than males. The researchers estimate that approximately 32,000 fewer patients would die if male physicians could achieve the same outcomes as female doctors each year.

However, since the analysis cannot prove the gender of the doctor was the determining factor of the results, the researchers tried many times to rule out other explanations.

"If we had a treatment that lowered mortality by 0.4 percentage points or half a percentage point, that is a treatment we would use widely. We would think of that as a clinically important treatment we want to use for our patients," Ashish Jha, professor of health policy at the Harvard School of Public Health, said as reported by Washington Post.

For many years, various studies have suggested that men and women practice medicine differently. For instance, women are more likely to follow clinical guidelines and counsel patients on preventive care. This is because they are more communicative than men. However, those differences and their effects on the patient's health have been unclear.

"Understanding exactly why these differences in care quality and practice patterns exist may provide valuable insights," the researchers concluded in the study.

"The next step would be 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," Ashish Jha, co-author of the study, said as reported by Atlantic.

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