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Women Survive Heart Attacks Better When Treated by Women Doctors

Women Survive Heart Attacks Better When Treated by Women Doctors

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  • Female patients who have suffered a heart attack have significantly better survival rates if they are treated by women doctors in the emergency room
  • Hospitals that address issues, which arise due to gender differences in treating doctors will have improved patient outcomes especially the female patients
  • Female patient outcomes can be improved by providing for more lady physicians in the emergency room and sensitizing male doctors to communicate better with female patients

Women patients with heart attack have better survival rates when treated by a woman doctor, according to a recent study undertaken by principal investigator Brad Greenwood of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and Laura Huang of Harvard University along with Seth Carnahan of Washington University in St. Louis.

The findings of the study authored by Carnahan, associate professor of strategy at the Olin Business School along with Greenwood of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management and the Harvard Business School's Huang appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences entitled "Patient-Physician Gender Concordance and Increased Mortality Among Female Heart Attack Patients".

Gender Differences in Workplace - Focus of the Study

The subject of gender differences at workplace has long interested Carnahan, especially when he realized that his sister's experience in a male dominated office was different from his own experiences.


Says Carnahan, "Interpersonal interactions, whether they are between a doctor and patient or a manager and a subordinate, create the core of an organization," he said. "I'm very interested in how these interactions determine a firm's performance and influence the lives of its managers, employees, and customers."

How Does Physician's Gender affect Survival of Heart Attack Patients

The study team reviewed huge amounts of anonymous medical information on nearly 582,000 heart attack cases over a period of 19 years from Florida hospitals between 1991 to 2010. The team analyzed relevant patient details such as age, race, and underlying medical history, hospital quality etc.

The key findings of the study include
  • Even after taking into account the above factors that could influence patient outcome, the team found that in general female patients were less likely to survive heart attacks than male patients whether treated by male or female doctors
  • Gender differences in survival rates between male versus female patients were the highest under male doctors
  • Among patients treated by female physicians, 11.8 percent of men died, versus about 12 percent of women giving a gender difference in survival rates of 0.2 percent
  • For patients treated by male physicians, 12.6 percent of men died in comparison to 13.3 percent of women, or a gender gap in survival of 0.7 percent (more than thrice from above)
  • The most favorable situation for survival of female patients, the team found was, when the percentage of female doctors in the emergency room was higher than when the treating physician was a man
  • The gender gap in survival of female patients versus male patients narrowed (when treated by male doctors) if the male doctor had experience in treating more female patients compared to a male doctor who had not treated as many female patients
The findings of the study validate earlier studies which show that patient prognosis is better when treated by female doctors but also the novel fact that having a lady doctor makes a significant difference to the outcome of a female patient.

Addressing Issues Arising Due to Gender Differences of Doctors

  • Gender differences in physician can affect the outcome of female patients and men physicians have to be trained to communicate better with women patients
  • Male and female patients describe or relate their symptoms differently and male doctors should be sensitized to this fact
Interestingly, Carnahan-Greenwood have collaborated in an earlier study that found how women lawyers were less likely to progress in their firms with less chances of handling challenging assignments or being given promotions when their male bosses were politically conservative.

The current study moves away from gender bias in the employer-employee relationship to patient-doctor (employee-customer) relationship.

In conclusion, according to Carnahan, "Employee-customer relationships don't have as much research in this area, and you can think of a physician and a patient being a customer relationship. I think organizations that get this right can outperform other firms and produce better outcomes for all of their stakeholders."

Reference :
  1. Kathryn Pitkin Derose, Ron D Hays, Daniel F McCaffrey, David W Baker, "Does Physician Gender Affect Satisfaction of Men and Women Visiting the Emergency Department?" PMC (2001) Apr; 16(4): 218-226. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1497.2001.016004218.

Source: Medindia

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