Patients treated by female doctors less likely to die, study shows


SOME previous studies have suggested that female physicians may provide higher quality medical care, but patient outcomes have never been investigated. New research aims to fill this research gap by examining whether patient outcomes are different for those treated by male and female doctors, respectively.
New research suggests that patients treated by female physicians have better clinical outcomes. A team of researchers, from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, set out to see if potential gender differences in clinical practice had an impact on patient clinical outcomes.
The authors were motivated by previous research, which suggested that male and female physicians differed in their medical practice. For instance, female physicians tend to adhere to clinical guidelines more strictly, provide more preventive care, and use more patient-centered communication than their male counterparts.
Despite this, female physicians are paid significantly less than their male counterparts, with various authors offering different explanations for this pay gap.
In this context, a team of researchers – led by Yusuke Tsugawa, research associate in the Department of Health Policy and Management – decided that an examination of patient outcomes was necessary.
The results were published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Evaluating the links between patient outcomes and physician gender Researchers analyzed a 20 percent sample of Medicare Inpatient and Carrier Files, and they identified 1 million beneficiaries aged 65 or older who were admitted to acute care hospitals between January 1, 2011, and December 31, 2014.
The scientists examined associations between the physicians’ sex and the patients’ 30-day mortality rate (that is, how many patients died within 30 days of admission), as well as their 30-day readmission rate (whether patients were readmitted within 30 days of being discharged.)
To ensure the reliability of the results, Tsugawa and team used three regression models. The first model adjusted for patient characteristics, the second one additionally adjusted for hospital effects, and the third model considered all the variables in models one and two plus physician characteristics.
Researchers also evaluated whether the differences in patient outcomes varied according to the primary condition that a patient was admitted for, as well as the severity of the illness.
Finally, scientists looked at potential mechanisms that could explain the differences they observed.

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