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Mortality Rates and Physician Gender

By December 20, 2016Commentary

There is a lot of research analyzing differences in physician practice patterns and outcomes.  As women have come to be a rapidly increasing proportion of all doctors, interest grows in comparing male and female physician outcomes.  A study in JAMA Internal Medicine looks at certain hospital outcomes in that regard.   (JAMA Int. Med. Article)   Prior research had focused on aspects of interactions with patients and adherence to care guidelines.  The researchers used a sample of Medicare beneficiaries treated by general internists and hospitalized with selected conditions in the period from 2011 to 2014 and evaluated outcomes like readmissions and mortality.  The analysis included adjustments for patient characteristics, including health status and demographics, and physician demographics.  The analysis was conducted on an overall level and for eight common conditions leading to hospital admission.  There were some differences between the female and male physicians.  The women were younger, more like to be osteopaths, treated fewer patients and had slightly more female patients.  They were more likely to work in large, nonprofit or teaching hospitals.

The female internists had slightly lower 30 day mortality rates among their patients, 10.82% versus 11.49%.  30-day readmission rates were also slightly lower for patients of women doctors, 15.01% versus 15.57%.  The mortality rate difference was significant for 5 out of the 8 specific admission conditions analyzed and the readmission rate difference was also significant for most of the conditions.  A variety of sub-analyses appear to confirm the primary conclusions.  The results would suggest that female physicians’ greater adherence to guidelines and other aspects of how they approach medical treatments may lead to improved health outcomes.  If so, male physicians would be well-advised to understand and adopt some of the same characteristics in treating patients.

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