Patients Treated by Women Doctors Fare Better

A path breaking study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (23 April 2024) reveals exciting evidence: patients under the care of female physicians’ exhibit significantly lower mortality rates compared to those treated by male counterparts. Led by Dr. Yusuke Tsugawa, a senior author of the study, the research sheds light on the profound impact of physician gender on patient outcomes.

Employing a retrospective observational study design, researchers analysed Medicare claims data spanning from 2016 to 2019, encompassing approximately 458,100 female and 319,800 male patients. Among these, 142,500 and 97,500 patients, respectively—constituting roughly 31% of the sample—were attended to by female doctors.

Major findings of the study focused on primary outcomes, namely 30-day mortality from hospital admission and 30-day readmission from discharge. The results unequivocally indicate that patients treated by female physicians experienced significantly reduced readmission & mortality rates.

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Dr. Tsugawa explains, “Our findings underscore the distinct approaches to medical practice between male and female physicians, which directly influence patient health outcomes.” The study highlights various factors contributing to this disparity, including potential underestimation of female patients’ illness severity by male physicians, as well as superior communication and rapport-building skills demonstrated by female doctors.

Previous research has identified instances where male physicians may overlook or underestimate symptoms reported by female patients, leading to delayed or inadequate care. Conversely, female physicians are believed to excel in fostering open dialogue and trust with their patients, particularly among female cohorts. This enhanced communication facilitates more accurate diagnoses and tailored treatment plans.

The implications of this research are profound, suggesting a tangible benefit in patient care when treated by female physicians, particularly for female patients. However, Dr. Tsugawa underscores the need for further investigation into the nuanced differences in medical practice between genders and their impact on patient outcomes.

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