A review of almost 582,000 heart attack cases over 19 years showed female patients had a significantly higher survival rate when a woman treated them in the ER, according to Seth Carnahan, associate professor of strategy at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis and part of a three-member research team on the project.
Survival rates for male heart attack also rose under the care of female doctors, although by a smaller proportion. Women are less likely to survive in the years following a heart attack and it could be because of how they are treated.
Mortality rates for women who undergo a traumatic event like a heart attack are higher than men.
Under female doctors, 12 per cent of women died and 11.8 per cent of men.
The effect: Women are more likely to die from heart attacks than men are.
The new study, conducted by three business school professors at the University of Minnesota, Washington University in St. Louis, and Harvard, started by looking at whether gender concordance between patients and the attending physicians in the emergency department influenced survival. Both sexes experience chest pain and discomfort commonly associated with a heart attack, women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
One possible reason for this is that female physicians tend to share more information with patients and to focus more on partnership and patient participation while Male physicians tend to stick to "the facts", emphasizing the patient history and physical exam.
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But "the penalty for being female is greater" when women are treated by male physicians, says Greenwood.
That's because more and more studies are coming to the same conclusion: Female doctors produce better outcomes than men.
Rather than rely on women to act as test dummies for inexperienced doctors, though, it'd better to just stock our emergency rooms and health care centres with more women doctors. "Still, she adds, the study raises many troubling questions about the treatment of women in the ER, "like the concern there's a systematic bias where male physicians are not listening to female patients" complaints as readily as [those of] a man".
Notably, one out of 4 female deaths can be linked to heart attack, which is a leading cause of death for women in the United States, as per the CDC.
"We also found that male physicians are more effective at treating female AMI patients when they work with more female colleagues and when they have treated more female patients in the past", wrote Greenwood, Carnahan, and Huang.
Although women patients matched with women physicians have been studied before, this study is the first time heart attack outcomes were assessed for gender concordance.
What's more, female survival improved based on how many female doctors were employed in the hospital's emergency department. "And male physicians could learn a thing or two from our female colleagues about how to achieve better outcomes".