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

Female doctor and senior patient reviewing medical chart in clinic examination room

Women suffering from a heart attack seem to have a better chance of survival if they're treated by a female doctor, according to a new study in PNAS.

Heart disease is the number one killer of women and men in the USA, and symptoms of heart attack can show up differently in men and women.

BOSTON-If you're a woman and having a heart attack (what's called in medical parlance an "acute myocardial infarction" or AMI), do your best to make sure you're treated by a female physician.

Previous studies have shown that women are more likely than men to die of heart attacks.

Heart disease is the number-one killer of both men and women, but the latter are significantly less likely to survive heart attacks.

"Our work corroborates prior research showing that female doctors tend to produce better patient outcomes than male doctors", Carnahan said.

As well as looking at the patients' age, gender, and whether they had other health problems, the team also looked at whether the patient died during their stay in hospital and whether the emergency room doctor primarily looking after them was a man or a woman.

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.

"For example, a propensity among women to delay seeking treatment and the presentation of symptoms that differ from those of men".

Women more likely to survive heart attacks if treated by a female doctor: study.

Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Greenwood and colleagues describe how they looked at records from Florida of emergency department admissions for heart attacks between 1991 and 2010.

As the study is observational, it does not provide any strong answer to why male doctors flag behind. Specifically, a study found that patients who were treated by female doctors had lower mortality and readmission rates. And, of course, given how the female doctors fared with all patients (along with research elsewhere), it could be the case that male doctors simply aren't as skilled in general.

'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. In the new study everyone was more likely to survive if they saw a female physician, and a study published a year ago in JAMA Internal Medicine indicated all patients of female physicians had lower mortality and hospital readmission rates.

Why would women treated by male physicians be dying at a higher rate than those treated by female doctors even though they were admitted to the hospital?

Also, given the gender bias in outcomes, hospital administrators may also want to narrow the pay gap between male and female doctors.

These findings represent a "fundamental catch-22 for medical providers and female patients", wrote the authors.

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