Posted by John Ager on 24 April 2017.
Might women doctors be better than men? They are if you believe a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. When investigators compared hospital readmission and mortality rates for Medicare patients treated by male and female physicians, those treated by female patients fared better. How much? About .5%. Doesn’t sound like a lot? Well, the study estimates that if male doctors did as well as women in treating older patients, about 32,000 more lives would be prolonged each year. That’s a lot, especially if you are the patient or a loved one.
While the researchers did their best to rule out whether factors payed a role, the results are likely to be the subject of some controversy and do not necessarily prove women docs are better than men. Still the results are significant and may lead the way to more research into better treatment methods.
So, what’s behind the difference. If past research provides any explanation, it is because men are from Mars and women are from Venus. They look different. They are raised differently. They are socialized differently. They see the world from different perspectives. They communicate and interact with others in ways that contrast. It is unclear exactly what it is in particular about the patients of women doctors that leads to better outcomes. Perhaps it is a combination of things. Women are known to be nurturers, while men are known to be fixers. Could it be that a nurturing mentality is better than a fixing mentality?
Does this research mean anything for medical malpractice? According to some studies like this one, which found women ophthalmologists malpractice less frequently than men, it does. Still, I don’t think I am going to switch to a woman doctor from my male primary physician on the basis of this study alone…at least not until I am on Medicare.
Here’s what Garry Trudeau has to say about the issue.