Does a doc­tor’s gen­der af­fect your chance of sur­vival?

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

What if your doc­tor’s gen­der could in­flu­ence your chance of sur­viv­ing a visit to the hos­pi­tal?

A big study of older pa­tients hos­pi­tal­ized for com­mon ill­nesses raises that provoca­tive pos­si­bil­ity - and also lots of ques­tions. Pa­tients who got most of their care from women doc­tors were more likely to leave the hos­pi­tal alive than those treated by men.

The dif­fer­ences were small - about 11 per­cent of pa­tients treated mostly by women died within 30 days of en­ter­ing the hos­pi­tal, ver­sus 11.5 per­cent of those treated by men. But the all-male re­search team es­ti­mated that there would be about 32,000 fewer deaths each year in the US if male physi­cians per­formed at the same level as their fe­male peers.

The study didn’t probe why there might be these dif­fer­ences in sur­vival. And Dr. Ashish Jha, the lead au­thor, said the study doesn’t mean pa­tients should avoid him and all other male physi­cians.

But he said male doc­tors could take a cue from women doc­tors’ ten­den­cies that might con­trib­ute to bet­ter care. Ac­cord­ing to other re­search, women doc­tors are more likely than men to fol­low treat­ment guide­lines, pro­vide preven­tive care more of­ten and com­mu­ni­cate more with pa­tients.

Jha said that it was im­por­tant to bet­ter un­der­stand the rea­sons be­hind the dif­fer­ences, and to share that in­for­ma­tion with all physi­cians to im­prove care. Jha, an in­ternist and Har­vard Med­i­cal School pro­fes­sor, said he has not spo­ken to his own pa­tients about the study - yet. “As a male physi­cian, I have a stake in this,” Jha said.

Study data

The study was pub­lished Mon­day in JAMA In­ter­nal Medicine. The re­searchers looked at data in­volv­ing more than 1.5 mil­lion hos­pi­tal­iza­tions for Medicare pa­tients aged 65 and older be­tween Jan­uary 2011 and De­cem­ber 2014. Pa­tients’ ill­nesses in­cluded pneu­mo­nia, heart fail­ure, in­testi­nal bleed­ing, uri­nary in­fec­tions and lung dis­ease.

All were treated by gen­eral in­ternists in the hos­pi­tal. The re­searchers com­pared re­sults in pa­tients who got most or all of their care from women in­ternists with those who got most or all of their care from men.

Most pa­tients sur­vived and were sent home within a month of treat­ment. But in ad­di­tion to bet­ter sur­vival chances, those treated by women doc­tors were slightly less likely to be re-ad­mit­ted to the hos­pi­tal within that first month.

On av­er­age, women doc­tors were in charge of fewer pa­tients and some of their pa­tients weren’t as sick as those of male doc­tors, but the re­searchers con­sid­ered those fac­tors and still found a link be­tween doc­tors’ gen­der and pa­tients’ sur­vival dif­fer­ences.

Dr. Lisa Schwartz of the Dart­mouth In­sti­tute for Health Pol­icy & Clin­i­cal Prac­tice said the study doesn’t prove whether doc­tors’ sex ac­counted for the re­sults. “To make a stronger case, you’d need in­for­ma­tion on doc­tors’ prac­tices in the study,” she said. For ex­am­ple, did women physi­cians give pa­tients with pneu­mo­nia an­tibi­otics sooner than men physi­cians - treat­ment that could po­ten­tially im­prove sur­vival chances, she said.

For ex­am­ple, did women doc­tors give pa­tients with pneu­mo­nia an­tibi­otics sooner - treat­ment that could po­ten­tially im­prove sur­vival chances, she said. Dart­mouth pol­icy an­a­lyst Dr. H. Gil­bert Welch called the re­sults “in­trigu­ing” but pre­lim­i­nary and “not some­thing for pa­tients to act on.” —AP


ALABAMA: This Thurs­day, July 30, 2015, file photo shows an exam room in a hos­pi­tal.

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