Doc­tor’s gen­der could be linked to sur­vival chances

Pa­tients at­tended to by women physi­cians more likely to leave hos­pi­tal, re­search sug­gests.

The Times-Tribune - - Health & Science - BY LIND­SEY TANNER

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.

BRYNN AN­DER­SON / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A study of older pa­tients hos­pi­tal­ized for com­mon ill­nesses shows those who re­ceived most of their care from women doc­tors were more likely to leave the hos­pi­tal alive than those treated by men.

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