Does the gender of your physician matter? Study says yes.

By Greg Hamilton • Published: March 9th, 2017
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Are you less likely to die or be readmitted to a hospital if you are treated by a woman doctor than by a male physician? While such a broad statement might be impossible to quantify completely, a recent study of elderly patients treated by internists suggests the gender of the physician does matter.

Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed Medicare data of more than 1.5 million patients age 65 or older who were hospitalized from 2011 to 2014. Within 30 days of admission, patients who had been treated by female instead of male internists showed slightly lower rates of death and hospital readmission.

The researchers noted in JAMA Internal Medicine that evidence suggests female physicians are more likely to practice evidence-based medicine, perform as well or better on standardized exams, and provide more patient-centered care than male doctors. Patients of female primary care physicians also had fewer emergency room visits than patients of male primary physicians.

For those who might argue the slight difference in mortality is negligible, the researchers pointed out that it took 10 years for all-cause mortality to fall from 5 percent in 2003 to 4.5 percent in 2013 among Medicare beneficiaries. The difference in mortality rates between patients of male and female physicians in their study was of a comparable magnitude, they said.

The study raises questions such as what female doctors do differently than male doctors and can male doctors learn from their female counterparts?