May 2, 2024

Female doctors’ patients may have lower mortality and hospital readmission rates 

Patients have lower rates of mortality and hospital readmissions when treated by female physicians, with female patients benefitting more than their male counterparts, new research suggests.

The mortality rate for female patients was 8.15% when treated by female physicians vs. 8.38% when the physician was male — a clinically significant difference, the researchers found. While the difference for male patients was smaller, female physicians still had the edge with a 10.15% mortality rate compared with male doctors’ 10.23% rate.

The researchers found the same pattern for hospital readmission rates.

The study is published in the peer-reviewed journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

Patient outcomes should not differ between male and female physicians if they practice medicine the same way, said DrYusuke Tsugawa, of UCLA, the study’s senior author.

“What our findings indicate is that female and male physicians practice medicine differently, and these differences have a meaningful impact on patients’ health outcomes,” Tsugawa said.

The researchers examined Medicare claims data from 2016 to 2019 for about 458,100 female and 319,800 male patients. Of those, 142,500 and 97,500, or roughly 31% for both, were treated by female doctors. The primaryoutcomes were 30-day mortality from the date of hospital admission and 30-day readmission from the date of discharge.

There may be several factors driving these differences, the researchers believe.

They suggest that male doctors might underestimate the severity of their female patients’ illness — prior research has noted that male doctors underestimate their female patients’ pain levels, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular symptoms, and stroke risk, which could lead to delayed or incomplete care.

Also, female doctors may communicate better with their female patients, making it likelier that these patients provideimportant information leading to better diagnoses and treatment. Finally, female patients may be more comfortable withreceiving sensitive examinations and engaging in detailed conversations with female physicians.