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Female doctors earn 24 percent less than their male peers, but their earnings don’t appear to be tied to patient outcomes.
Patients treated by women are 4 percent less likely to die prematurely and 5 percent less likely to return to the hospital after they’ve been discharged compared with patients treated by men, according to a study led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The study — recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine — reveals that if male physicians could achieve the same health outcomes as their female peers, there would be approximately “32,000 fewer deaths each year among Medicare patients alone,” according to a press release.
Lead study author Yusuke Tsugawa says in a statement:
“The difference in mortality rates surprised us. The gender of the physician appears to be particularly significant for the sickest patients. These findings indicate that potential differences in practice patterns between male and female physicians may have important clinical implications.”
The study is based on an analysis of more than 1.5 million elderly Medicare patients who were hospitalized and treated by general internists between 2011 and 2014. The researchers controlled for differences in hospitals and in the nature of patient cases.
Ashish Jha, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and one of the study’s co-authors, tells Kaiser Health News that men and women tend to practice medicine differently, which might have an impact on patient outcomes.
“Women physicians are more likely to do evidence-based medicine, and follow clinical guidelines. They are more likely to communicate in a way patients report is more effective.”
Despite women’s effectiveness at practicing medicine and keeping patients alive and healthy, there are considerably fewer female physicians than their male counterparts. A contributing factor might be that women who are doctors are paid significantly less than their male cohorts, earning just 76 cents for every $1 that male doctors earn.
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