Study: Patients treated by female doctors have better health outcomes

Finding indicate ‘female and male physicians practice medicine differently’

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

When treated by female physicians, patients experience lower rates of both mortality and hospital readmission. That’s according to a new study reported by the University of California.

“What our findings indicate is that female and male physicians practice medicine differently, and these differences have a meaningful impact on patients’ health outcomes,” Dr. Yusuke Tsugawa, lead study author and associate professor-in-residence at UCLA, said in a news release.

“Further research on the underlying mechanisms linking physician gender with patient outcomes, and why the benefit of receiving the treatment from female physicians is larger for female patients, has the potential to improve patient outcomes across the board,” Tsugawa said.

Published in Annals of Internal Medicine, the researchers examined Medicare claims from 2016 to 2019 — featuring 458,100 female and nearly 319,800 male patients. Around 31% of patients from each sex were treated by female doctors.

When treated by female physicians, female patients experienced an 8.15% mortality rate. That rate increased to 8.38% for those treated by males. Male patients experienced a smaller divide, a 10.15% mortality rate with female doctors and 10.23% rate with male doctors. The patients’ hospital readmission rates were found to follow similar patterns.

“A better understanding of this topic could lead to the development of interventions that effectively improve patient care,” Tsugawa said.

Despite female doctors manifesting better health outcomes for their patients, an Association of American Medical Colleges report revealed that women made up only 37.6% of all U.S. doctors in 2023. According to a Forbes report that same year, the gender pay gap reached 26% among doctors.

More research is still needed to understand why female physicians often provide better health outcomes for their patients, Tsugawa said.

“It is important to note that female physicians provide high-quality care, and therefore, having more female physicians benefits patients from a societal point-of-view,” he said.

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