Doctor’s gender could be linked to survival chances
Patients attended to by women physicians more likely to leave hospital, research suggests.
CHICAGO — 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 allmale research team estimated that there would be about 32,000 fewer deaths each year in the U.S. 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.
Dr. 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.
Dr. Jha said he has not spoken to his own patients about the study — yet.
“As a male physician, I have a stake in this,” Dr. Jha said.
The study was published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.