Your physician’s gender shouldn’t matter, should it? Turns out it might! According to a 2018 study published on the website of the US National Academy of Sciences, mortality rates for both sexes were lower when patients were being treated by a female physician. These were no isolated incidents. The study, titled “Patient–physician gender concordance and increased mortality among female heart attack patients”, covered over 580,000 heart patients!
Which group was found least likely to survive? You guessed it – women being treated by male physicians. Moreover, similar findings are supported by earlier research. A 2016 study by Harvard University of more than 1.5 million Medicare patients found that patients who had female doctors were less likely to be readmitted to the hospital or die over a one-month period than those who had male ones. Applied to the entire population of Medicare patients, the difference equated 32,000 fewer deaths!
Surely female doctors aren’t more competent?
There’s no reason to believe gender can make a doctor more or less competent, so to what are these findings owed? An analysis of relevant studies by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found a very obvious reason – female doctors tend to spend more time actually listening to patients.
Being nice and friendly to a patient will contribute to a successful outcome and vice versa. Many patients report that male doctors don’t take the time to listen to their symptoms and answer their questions.
As always, women pay a price for this. We’ve already mentioned women with male doctors having the worst outcomes, but now we mean female doctors, who were found to spend 10 percent more time per visit, leading to scheduling delays. By the end of the day, women doctors are over an hour behind their male colleagues on average. This causes aggravation among staff and other patients, causing female doctors have to cope with yet another source of stress.
Physician Gender and Heart Disease
Women’s symptoms can differ from men’s, other conditions being equal. This is the case with heart disease. For example, chest pain is more common in men having a heart attack. Communication is very important in heart patients. Doctors almost always ask patients about chest pain to rule out heart failure as a possible cause of complaints, and many women with heart conditions never have chest pain.
There is no disputing the fact that successful treatment outcomes depend not only on an accurate diagnosis, but also on the patient’s subjective perceptions. Patients want to feel heard. Communication is a major part of health care.
It may also be that some women feel more comfortable talking to a female doctor, particularly in fields like gynecology and urology.