A recent New York Times article relayed information from a recent study of more than 580,000 heart patients, which found that mortality rates for both men and women were lower when their doctor was a woman. Additionally, women treated by doctors who were men were less likely to survive.
Does this study mean that women physicians should be preferred over men?
Additional studies conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health in 2016 have found that women physicians are more successful in treating their patients. Patients in the care of women physicians are less likely to die due to their illnesses and are also less likely to have to return to the hospital for additional treatments.
Dr. Ashish Jha, who oversaw the Harvard study, stated that “[t]he data out there says that women physicians tend to be a little bit better at sticking to the evidence and doing the things that we know work better.”
Studies completed at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health also found that women physicians are simply more effective in communicating with their patients than men are. The discussions women physicians had with their patients were more emotionally driven, positive, and lasted an average of two minutes longer than those between men physicians and their patients.
Women physicians were also found to hold longer appointments with their patients, engage them in more questions about their health concerns, and interact with any family members accompanying their patients.
The statistical evidence is clear that women doctors outperform men in certain areas of healthcare, yet they still find themselves paid less. Women doctors are paid roughly $20,000 less than men.
Potential explanations for why the wage gap occurs even in the medicinal field have to do with career interruptions. Since women have a bigger potential of taking time off or choosing to work part-time to have children and balance time between home and work, some find that lower wages are justified.
This logic is horribly flawed considering the evidence found in multiple studies. In another centered around the interactions between primary care physicians and patients, women primary care physicians waited an average of three minutes to interrupt their patients during conversations about their health. How long did men wait? 47 seconds.
Of course, these studies are not being conducted to persuade patients to drop their men physicians. After all, the goal of any doctor is to help their patients remain healthy and do whatever is necessary to keep them alive and well.
One physician, Dr. Nieca Goldberg, has commented that men and women physicians alike just want to help their patients in the most effective way possible. Her book, “Women Are Not Small Men,” ignited conversation on heart disease in women and has led her to encourage patients to find physicians who listen to them.
“Patients not only want you to take care of them in terms of making the right diagnosis, they also want to feel heard, and a big part of healthcare is the communication piece,” Dr. Goldberg stated.
The choice is yours when choosing a physician; however, there is no denying that women physicians have better overall performance and communication skills.
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