Women more likely to die of heart attack if doctor is male

A doctor holds her stethoscope in an outpatients ward

A doctor holds her stethoscope in an outpatients ward

During the almost two-decade study timeframe, roughly 1.3 million heart attacks occurred among Florida's 20 million residents. The male doctors in their study were better at treating women with heart attacks when they had more experience treating such patients-and especially when they worked in hospitals with more female doctors.

Even after taking these factors into account, they found that female patients were less likely to survive heart attacks than male patients. Some of the things that seem to set apart many female doctors today, from how they communicate with patients to their willingness to follow clinical guidelines, are possible to learn and teach to future generations of both male and female doctors, physician and University of California, Davis, researcher Klea Bertakis told Stat News.

"Given the cost of male physicians' learning on the job, it may be more effective to increase the presence of female physicians".

They found female patients had lower survival rates than male patients when treated by male physicians.

For women suffering from the symptoms of a heart attack, a team of researchers from Harvard Business School has a very simple recommendation that could save lives: request a woman physician. In the new study everyone was more likely to survive if they saw a female physician, and a study published previous year in JAMA Internal Medicine indicated all patients of female physicians had lower mortality and hospital readmission rates.

"These results", they write, "suggest a reason why gender inequality in heart attack mortality persists: Most physicians are male, and male physicians appear to have trouble treating female patients".

Among patients who survived, women treated by male doctors spent more time in the hospital before being released, further suggesting worse medical care. 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.

Interestingly, the "gender bias" diminished when there were more women in the emergency department, and as men treated more women.

It can not prove it was the presence of female doctors that caused the improved survival rates.

Under female doctors, 12 per cent of women died and 11.8 per cent of men.

"It's important that we better understand what is causing this variation in care".

The solution may be simply to add more female doctors in emergency departments, researchers argued.

"This highlights the importance of ensuring a gender-diverse work environment", says Vineet Arora from the University of Chicago, "and it suggests an intervention that can improve outcomes"-namely, hiring more women".

That's the takeaway of new research by Harvard Business School associate professor Laura Huang and her coauthors, Brad Greenwood of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and Seth Carnahan of Washington University in St. Louis, in an article to be published this week online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).