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Female Doctors Perform Better than Their Male Counterparts in Providing Care for the Elderly

Dec 21, 2016 07:37 AM EST
Female doctors might be better than their male counterparts in providing health care for the elderly hospitalized patients.
(Photo : Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

A new study from Harvard revealed that female doctors might be better than their male counterparts in providing health care for the elderly hospitalized patients.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, showed that elderly patients who were taken care of by women doctors were more likely to do better, with lesser risk of death and readmission, than those who were treated by men doctors.

"The difference in mortality rates surprised us," said Yusuke Tsugawa, a research associate in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and lead author of the study, in a press release. "The gender of the physician appears to be particularly significant for the sickest patients. These findings indicate that potential differences in practice patterns between male and female physicians may have important clinical implications."

For the study, the researchers analyzed the data of more than one million Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized with a medical condition between 2011 and 2014. These beneficiaries were 65 years old or older and were treated by general internists. The researchers then adjusted possible differences in patient and physician characteristics. Additionally, they also considered possible differences in the patient outcomes varied by specific condition or by severity of illness.

The researchers found that elderly patients being treated by female doctors were four percent less likely to die within 30 days of hospital admission and five percent less likely to be readmitted within 30 days after discharge. The linked between female psychiatrists and lesser risk of patient readmission and death were observed across wide variety of clinical conditions

The results remained consistent even when the researchers restricted their analysis to hospitalists, or the physicians that were randomly assigned to patients based on their work schedule. This suggests that patient selection does not explain the difference between the male and female physicians.

In the United States, female physicians account to about one third of the whole physician workforce. They also comprise half of all U.S. medical school graduates.

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