Women more likely to survive heart attack if ER physician is female

A doctor holds her stethoscope in an outpatients ward

A doctor holds her stethoscope in an outpatients ward

But the reality is very different, with heart attacks affecting a large spectrum of the population, including thousands of seemingly healthy women every year. Back in 2016, Harvard researchers showed that elderly patients treated by female doctors were less likely to die or return to the hospital than if they were treated by a man.

"We find that gender concordance increases a patient's probability of surviving a [heart attack] and that the effect is driven by increased mortality when male physicians treat female patients", said Dr Brad Greenwood, associate professor of information and decision sciences at the University of Minnesota.

Those mitigating factors "suggest that having training programs that are more gender neutral, or showing how men and women might present symptoms differently, could improve outcomes for female patients", Carnahan said.

Female patients treated by male doctors were about 1.5 percentage points less likely to survive a heart attack than male patients in the care of female doctors.

That said, the gender difference in doctors probably doesn't explain the entire gap in heart disease survival.

Given that male doctors' performance improved as they worked with and treated more women, it would make sense to add more women to the ER.

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"Especially in emergency medicine, where physicians are tasked with saving peoples' lives, it is assumed that physicians should be working to save everyone's lives equally", Laura Huang, professor at Harvard Business School and one of the study authors, told ABC News.

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. But male doctors were linked to worse outcomes, particularly for women. "But, if the survival rate among the female heart attack patients treated by male doctors was the same as the survival rate among female heart attack patients treated by female doctors, about 1500-3000 fewer of the female heart attack patients in our sample would have passed away".

As the study is observational, it does not provide any strong answer to why male doctors flag behind.

They found that female patients admitted to a hospital emergency room (ER) had a significantly higher chance of survival when another woman was in charge of their treatment.

A study found that 13.3 per cent died after being treated by a man, against 12 per cent of those treated by a woman. But a heart attack in women often starts with harder-to-interpret flu-like symptoms along with an aching jaw and spine.

It can not prove it was the presence of female doctors that caused the improved survival rates. Maybe they're directly teaching their male colleagues how to diagnose or treat women with heart attacks. This suggests that whatever female doctors are doing that's better is also transferable. "These findings suggest that female physicians are an asset not just for their patients, but for their male colleagues, too".

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