The Female Physician Advantage


A recent study was conducted to answer a very old question: are females better than males? Well, that was the gist of it. The real question was: Do patient outcomes differ between those treated by male and female physicians? And the answer? Yes.

The Battle of the Sexes

Analyzing 1.5 million Medicare patients’ death and readmission rates, the researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that female physicians had lower mortality and readmission rates compared to their male counterparts. However, the difference was slight. The mortality and readmission rates reported were 11.07% vs. 11.49% and 15.02% vs. 15.57%, respectively. 

The Female Physician Advantage

Although the difference is small, according to the researchers its implications certainly are not. The researchers estimated that if male physicians performed as well as their counterparts, almost 32,000 fewer patients would die. A bold statement that should by no means be taken lightly.

The results of this study should come to no surprise, as it’s been well long speculated and proven that female physicians overall provide better care. A 2013 study in Quebec found this to be true because female physicians are much more likely to prescribe the recommended medications and procedures. However, the same study also found that male physicians have a higher productivity rate. Nearly 1,000 more procedures a year, to be exact. It’s clear that both sexes can learn and benefit from each other. 

Once we gain insight on the practice patterns of each gender and minimize the differences, we can truly begin to move forward to provide a better quality of care. And interestingly enough, the researchers in Quebec believe this is already happening among the younger generation of physicians.

The Female Physician Disadvantage

As significant as the female physician advantage may be, there are negative factors that are weighing it down and must be considered. The first issue that comes to mind is the always trending pay gap.

The pay gap exists in nearly all professions, but in the medical profession, there is a large discrepancy that cannot be ignored. A difference in pay is extremely discouraging to any hard-working professional. And it is perhaps the leading factor that female physicians fail to take on leading roles. We must encourage our fellow female physicians in every aspect. Even if and when they choose family over practice.

Author: Troy Diffenderfer

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