Journal of Advanced Practice Nursing

Women More Likely To Survive Heart Attack If Treated By Female Doctor


By Sadhana Bharanidharan 

Among female patients who suffered heart attacks, researchers found a better chance of survival in people treated by female physicians in the ER when compared to those treated by male physicians.

The study titled "Patient-Physician Gender Concordance and Increased Mortality Among Female Heart Attack Patients" will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research team examined nearly 582,000 heart attack cases admitted to hospital emergency departments in Florida. The admissions took place over a span of 19 years, between 1991 and 2010.

When treated by a female doctor, 11.8 percent of male patients and 12 percent of female patients died. But when treated by a male doctor, 12.6 percent of male patients died compared to 13.3 percent of female patients. With access to health data, the team could measure factors like age, race, medical history, and hospital quality. But even after accounting for them, the gender differences in survival rates were the highest under male physicians.

But the influence of female health professionals did not end there. Women also seemed to have a better survival rate when treated by male doctors who had a lot of female colleagues in the ER. Though, the best outcomes were still linked to being a female doctor.

"These results suggest a reason why gender inequality in heart attack mortality persists," the authors wrote. "Most physicians are male, and male physicians appear to have trouble treating female patients."

Recently, a report from Canada shed light on how more women die from heart failure than men. It was suggested that female patients are more likely to receive a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, which can affect survival.

Researchers of the new study were interested in performing more detailed studies to uncover the exact mechanism behind the gender difference in outcomes.

While this was not included in the study, one variable they considered is how female physicians may perform better than their male counterparts when it comes to certain ailments. Indeed, studies from the past have also suggested that women make better surgeons and may have better outcomes when treating elderly patients.

"Interpersonal interactions, whether they are between a doctor and patient or a manager and a subordinate, create the core of an organization," said Seth Carnahan from Washington University in St. Louis.

Carnahan is one of the three members of the research team along with Brad Greenwood from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and Laura Huang from Harvard University.

"I'm very interested in how these interactions determine a firm's performance and influence the lives of its managers, employees, and customers," he added, noting that these conclusions were relevant to male-dominated workplaces in general.

The team also stressed the importance of dispelling the myth that heart disease is a "male" condition. Potential interventions included updated training to raise awareness of gender differences in heart health-related symptoms.


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