Do gender disparities in healthcare now include surviving a heart attack?
Friday, August 10, 2018
The conversation of gender disparities is not a new one in healthcare. Since Dr. Bernadine Healy talked about the Yentl Syndrome in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1991, the gender disparity conversation has continued.
Dr. Healy discussed how women were far less likely to be treated for a heart attack than males, however, once the heart attack was discovered, they were then treated mostly as equals. Therefore, it gave rise to the concept of the Yentl Syndrome, where a woman had to prove they were “just like a man” before receiving attention. However, in this case, it included life-saving measures.
Since then, there has been much discussion on the disparity of how women’s’ symptoms present versus men when having a heart attack. Great strides have been made in educating the public, as well as healthcare workers on the difference of male versus females with their heart attack symptoms.
But this week researchers have proposed that it goes far beyond just recognizing symptoms. They propose that if you are a woman who is having a heart attack, you will more likely survive if your doctor is a woman, too.
Researchers Brad Greenwood, Seth Carnahan and Laura Huang analyzed records from emergency rooms in Florida that included every patient who was admitted with a heart attack from 1991 to 2010.
Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, they found "higher mortality among female patients who are treated by male physicians. Male patients and female patients experience similar outcome when treated by female physicians."
“These results suggest a reason why gender inequality in heart attack mortality persists: Most physicians are male, and male physicians appear to have trouble treating female patients,” the team writes.
The survival rate of men treated by female doctors is 88.1 percent. However, it is 86.6 percent for women treated by male doctors — a 1.5 percent reduction.
But the researchers went a step further — both men and women suffering heart attacks fared better when treated by female doctors or when treated by men working alongside more female clinicians. This basically says that if there are more female doctors around, everyone wins.
This is not the first study to show better outcomes with female physicians. In February 2017, researchers noted that hospitalized Medicare patients treated by female physicians had significantly lower mortality rates and readmission rates. However, the reasons for the results did not indicate the reasoning.
Some suggest that female physicians see their patients more as a partnership with patient participation, while their male counterparts may tend to stick to the facts and emphasize the patient’s history and exam.
Although the study focused on medical outcomes, the researchers, who come from three different business schools, believe that the outcomes certainly translate to other business relationships.
"Interpersonal interactions, whether they are between a doctor and patient or a manager and a subordinate, create the core of an organization," Greenwood said. "I'm very interested in how these interactions determine a firm's performance and influence the lives of its managers, employees, and customers."
But, for now, the bottom line seems to still be — if you are a female having a heart attack, hope the ER you go to has lots of female physicians.
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