Hospital patients 'less likely to die' when treated by women doctors, study claims

Lynne Cameron/PA (PA Wire)
Lynne Cameron/PA (PA Wire)

Hospital patients treated by women doctors are less likely to die or to be readmitted, new research suggests.

The study carried out by UCLA and published in the peer-reviewed journal Annals of Internal Medicine compared the mortality rate for patients when the physician was male or female.

It found that the mortality rate of female patients was 8.15 per cent when treated by female physicians and 8.38 per cent when the physician was male.

The mortality rate for male patients treated by female doctors was 10.15 per cent and 10.23 per cent rate when treated by male physicians.

Researchers found the same pattern for hospital readmission ratesDr Yusuke Tsugawa, the study’s senior author said: “What our findings indicate is that female and male physicians practice medicine differently, and these differences have a meaningful impact on patients' health outcomes.

“Further research on the underlying mechanisms linking physician gender with patient outcomes, and why the benefit of receiving the treatment from female physicians is larger for female patients, has the potential to improve patient outcomes across the board.”

The researchers examined Medicare claims data from 2016 to 2019 for about 458,100 female and nearly 319,800 male counterparts.

Writers of the report cited several reasons for their findings, including that male doctors might underestimate the severity of their female patients’ illness over things such as gastrointestinal and cardiovascular symptoms - and even stroke risk.

Another reason suggested by the writers is that women doctors may communicate better with women patients, making it likelier patients share information and subsequently receive better treatment. The report also said that they may feel more comfortable with receiving sensitive examinations carried out by women. However, the report’s authors concluded that more research is needed into how and why male and female physicians practice medicine differently and its impact on patient care.Tsugawa called for physician pay gaps to be eliminated, arguing “It is important to note that female physicians provide high-quality care, and therefore, having more female physicians benefits patients from a societal point-of-view.”