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

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

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

According to their findings in "Patient-Physician Gender Concordance and Increased Mortality Among Female Heart Attack Patients", of more than 500,000 heart attack patients admitted to hospital emergency departments in Florida between 1991 and 2010, female patients treated by male physicians were less likely to survive than patients of either gender treated by female physicians or male patients treated by male physicians.

Survival rates for male heart attack also rose under the care of female doctors, although by a smaller proportion. "If they are concerned that they may be having a heart attack they should ask the treating physician - man or woman - if they have had an appropriate evaluation to determine this, and if not, why not".

Researchers looked at 580,000 heart attack cases and found that almost 12% of patients had died in the hospital, The Guardian reports.

The results from more than 580,000 patients reveals that overall, 11.9% of heart attack patients died while in hospital.

Based purely on the statistics, it showed that women treated by male doctors were less likely to survive than patients of either gender treated by female physicians, or male patients treated by male physicians.

"Even though lives should be equally saved, we are seeing this pervasive difference", says study co-author Laura Huang, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. Heart attacks look different in women than in men: Rather than the classic gripping chest pains, they can also be presaged by indigestion, or discomfort in the arms, neck, jaw, stomach, and back.

Namely, when women were treated by female doctors, "there was a significant and positive effect" on survival, said the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A couple years ago, there was a lot of buzz about research that showed that female doctors are better than male docs.

Greenwood, the lead author, told Reuters that he suspects additional deaths for women may arise when male doctors take longer to diagnose (and thus treat) heart attacks.

Emergency doctors and cardiologists, however, are wary of jumping to conclusions just yet.

They found that 13.3% of female patients seen by a male physician died, compared with 12% of women treated by another woman.

Given that male doctors' performance improved as they worked with and treated more women, it would make sense to add more women to the ER. It's important that we better understand what is causing this variation in care, and the BHF is already funding research in to how we can improve the outcomes of women who have a heart attack. "And male physicians could learn a thing or two from our female colleagues about how to achieve better outcomes".

"Medical practitioners should be aware of the possible challenges male providers face when treating female [heart attack] patients", the researchers wrote.

The new study highlights the importance of having "a strong female physician workforce", said Jennifer Haythe, co-director of Columbia Women's Heart Centre at the Columbia University Medical Centre. They extrapolated their findings a bit, and concluded that some 32,000 lives would be saved if male physicians could achieve the same outcomes as female physicians every year.