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Does Your Doctor's Gender Matter?

Your doctor’s gender may determine the type of care you receive during a hospital stay, according to a study from JAMA Internal Medicine published online in December 2016 that compares medical practice patterns among genders.

Harvard researchers measured the outcomes of Medicare patients treated in hospitals by general internists for eight common conditions, including sepsis, pneumonia, congestive heart failure, and urinary tract infection. Their analysis included more than 1.5 million hospitalizations.

The researchers found that female internists had the edge over males when it came to patient outcomes—older patients treated by women doctors were less likely to die or be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days than patients cared for by males. They estimated that if male doctors had similar outcomes as females, there would be 32,000 fewer deaths each year.

Because of the study’s observational nature, the outcomes could not be definitively gender related, and the researchers could not pinpoint why those differences occurred. However, past studies have shown that female doctors tended to adhere to clinical guidelines and evidence-based practice more often than their male counterparts.

It’s important to note that the study didn’t include specialists or surgeons, who also have a significant impact on patient outcomes, nor did it look at outpatient care. The study authors call for more research to investigate the gender discrepancies.

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