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Female Doctors Are Better At Treating Patients, Study Says

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Though there are roughly two times more male doctors than female ones, a new study says that women practice medicine better when it comes to certain conditions. Overall, females may simply be better doctors, the study adds.

Researchers from the Harvard University Chan School of Public Health found that women doctors have different methods of dealing with patients who have Type 2 diabetes and chronic heart failure, as well as in talking to patients about their habits, like smoking or sexual activity. These approaches appear to make them more efficient, compared to their male counterparts, Quartz reports.

According to the study’s data, female doctors caring for patients in the hospital over 65 years old had fewer people die on their watch, and also had fewer patients return to the hospital after 30 days.

Yusuke Tsugawa, a doctor and professor of public health at Harvard and lead author on the study, says,

The gender of the physician appears to be particularly significant for the sickest patients.

The researchers analyzed over 1.5 million Medicare patient records with a wide range of health conditions, from 2011 to 2014. They specifically looked at patients who could not choose their doctors, or were admitted. The study also controlled for variables like the time of admittance, ages of the physicians and type of medical school attended.

Overall health care was deemed good, as less than 12% of the patients died early, and less than 16% had to be readmitted within 30 days of being discharged.

The difference in results was small – women doctors were 4-5% less likely to have patients die, but this translates to thousands of lives, around 32,000.

The study, however, could not identify precisely why female physicians outperformed males, but the team believes the answer may lie in how women problem-solve. They say, “Men may be less deliberate in their approach to solving complex problems.” Also, women may be more by-the-book when it comes to complex conditions, or talk to their peers when needed.

Despite all this, the wage gap for female physicians is still at an average of $20,000 less than male doctors.

The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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