Study Shows Elderly Patients Treated by Female Doctors Less Likely to Die Than Those Treated by Men

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According to new research conducted by Harvard University, elderly patients are less likely to die or be readmitted to the hospital when they’re treated by a female physician than when treated by a male.

Public health researchers at Harvard University looked at three years of medical records for U.S. patients ages 65 and older, comparing doctors within the same hospitals, and focusing specifically on physicians providing hospital care. They then took a random sample of 20 percent of Medicare recipients who had been hospitalized between January 2011 and December 2014, finding that regardless of the medical condition, patients were more likely to die or be readmitted to the hospital in the following 30 days if treated by a male doctor.

The decrease in deaths after treatment by a female physician was statistically significant for conditions such as sepsis, acute kidney failure and irregular heartbeats, whereas other conditions, like congestive heart failure, urinary tract infections and gastrointestinal bleeding, proved the decrease in deaths to be more of a trend. However, for nearly all of the conditions reviewed by Harvard, hospital readmissions decreased significantly for patients treated by females, as compared to their male counterparts.

This research arrives at an important time, as equal pay arguments abound in the healthcare industry, with some arguing that women provide lower-quality care due to bearing the burden of domestic responsibilities. The researchers were not able to conclude that something about medical care by female physicians caused the decrease in deaths, but did find that the outcome was linked to the physician’s gender.

Find the full study here.

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