Thursday, 18 October, 2018

Women more likely to die of heart attack if doctor is male

Almost 12 percent of patients die when rushed for emergency treatment for a heart attack Almost 12 percent of patients die when rushed for emergency treatment for a heart attack
Anna Jefferson | 09 August, 2018, 13:24

"Getting to an ER in a timely fashion is likely to matter more than the gender of one's physician". In other words, the more female doctors a hospital had in their emergency room, the better the outcomes were for female heart attack patients. Heart attacks are currently the leading cause of death among both American men and women across the economic spectrum, and now account for about a quarter of all fatalities in the United States, the researchers noted.

The US study of almost 582,000 heart attack victims was carried out by the University of Minnesota.

A couple years ago, there was a lot of buzz about research that showed that female doctors are better than male docs. The disparity continued after the researchers considered various factors, including the physicians' years of experience and the patients' age, ethnicity, other diseases, educational level or the hospitals where they received treatment.

Overall, the team found that female physicians outperformed their male colleagues, and their patients were, on the whole, more likely to live.

"Although mortality rates for female patients treated by male physicians decrease as the male physician treats more female patients, this decrease may come at the expense of earlier female patients".

Publishing its findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team looked at more than 500,000 heart attack patients admitted to emergency departments in Florida between 1991 and 2010.

Among patients who survived, women treated by male doctors spent more time in the hospital before being released, further suggesting worse medical care.

The new study, conducted by three business school professors at the University of Minnesota, Washington University in St. Louis, and Harvard, started by looking at whether gender concordance between patients and the attending physicians in the emergency department influenced survival.

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Matching female doctors to female patients "reduced the probability of death by 5.4 per cent, relative to this baseline", it said.

Rather than rely on women to act as test dummies for inexperienced doctors, though, it'd better to just stock our emergency rooms and health care centres with more women doctors.

They found that 13.3% of female patients seen by a male physician died, compared with 12% of women treated by another woman.

But when female physicians took charge of treatment, those percentages fell - to 11.8% of men and 12% of women.

'One is that women tend to be more conscientious as doctors and have more social intelligence, so could pick up on signs of a heart attack. As a result, women's symptoms went underappreciated, their medical problems were misdiagnosed, and their lives hung in the balance.

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.

There's a unusual gender paradox at the heart of cardiovascular disease. It could also be, as the team writes, "that the most skillful physicians-i.e., female physicians-provide the highest return to their skills when treating the most challenging patients-i.e., female patients". Additionally, authors noted that "male patients and female patients experience similar outcomes when treated by female physicians, suggesting that unique challenges arise when male physicians treat female patients".

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