New study: Replacing male doctors with female doctors could save thousands of lives

Doctors

 By pH health care professionals

If we replaced male doctors with female doctors, at least 32,000 senior citizen lives could be saved each year, according a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, a recent LA Times article reports. 

Harvard researchers looked at medical records of Medicare patients across the country. They found that 10.82 percent of patients treated by female doctors died within 30 days of being admitted to the hospital, whereas 11.49 percent of patients treated by males died within 30 days of admittance. 

When accounting for factors like age, gender, income, how sick the patients were when they were admitted to the hospital, hospital resources and the experience of the doctors, researchers still found a gender gap. 

There was also a difference between male and female doctors when it came to patients being discharged and readmitted within 30 days. Patients treated by male doctors were more likely to be readmitted within 30 days.

Researchers also poured over the data related to specific illnesses, and the story is more of the same.

 Outcomes for specific illnesses

  • 30-day mortality rates for kidney failure patients were 12.54 percent when treated by female doctors and 13.3 percent when treated by male doctors.

  • For irregular heart rhythm patients, 30-day mortality rates were 5.08 percent when treated by female doctors and 6.02 percent when treated by male doctors.

  • Pneumonia patients saw 10.11 percent mortality rates when treated by female doctors and 11.03 percent when treated by males.

  • For sepsis patients, the difference in 30-day mortality rates was 23.05 percent when treated by females and 25.09 when treated by males.

So what does this mean?

Hospitalized Medicare patients were around 4 percent less likely to die within 30 days of admittance if their doctor was female -- this translates to saving around around 32,000 patient lives each year. 

The Times article also points out that prior studies have found female doctors are more likely to provide preventive care, follow official clinical guidelines, practice evidence-based medicine and offer “psychosocial counseling.” 

While it’s not clear why Medicare patients have had better outcomes with female doctors, it is clear that more work will need to be done to ensure patients are getting appropriate care and follow-up, regardless of whether their doctor is male or female. 

If you already have a male doctor, this doesn't suggest you should run out and change your doctor. This is merely cautionary information, especially for the elderly. As always, we encourage you to be a proactive patient to get better outcomes, whether you are seeing a male or female doctor. 

What do you think?

What has your experience been like? Do you find this Harvard study surprising?

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Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, health care attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here. 

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