Some people prefer seeing female doctors for a variety of reasons, including being more comfortable around them in gyno exam stirrups or discussing personal medical details. Now a new study suggests that patients treated by female doctors are also less likely to die.
Previous research indicated that female doctors are more likely to stick to clinical guidelines and initiate more thorough preventative care, resulting in providing a higher standard of care than male doctors. Now we’ve learned that female doctors at hospitals have lower 30-day patient mortality and readmission rates, meaning that their patients are less likely to die.
Although the authors of the study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, called the difference in mortality “modest,” they indicated that “32,000 fewer patients would die if male physicians could achieve the same outcomes as female physicians” each year. The authors concluded that the differences in medical practice patterns between male and female physicians may have important consequences for patient outcomes.
“Understanding exactly why these differences in care quality and practice patterns exist may provide valuable insights into improving quality of care for all patients, irrespective of who provides their care,” they wrote.
So, you would think that being more effective doctors would mean that women earn as much, if not more, than their male colleagues, right? Nope. An editorial accompanying the study pointed out that female academic physicians still make less than men and are also less likely to climb the ranks to become full professors.
The authors’ solution: “paying for performance” — or rewarding doctors that have better outcomes for patients — might help narrow the pay gap.
“These findings that female internists provide higher quality care for hospitalized patients yet are promoted, supported and paid less than male peers in the academic setting should push us to create systems that promote equity in start-up packages, career advancement and remuneration for all physicians,” the editorial authors wrote.