Friday, 19 October, 2018

Women more likely to survive a heart attack with female doctors

Female doctor and senior patient reviewing medical chart in clinic examination room Female doctor and senior patient reviewing medical chart in clinic examination room Hero Images
Gustavo Carr | 09 August, 2018, 13:24

The team also found women were more likely to survive if the emergency department had a higher proportion of female doctors who had treated heart attacks - a trend particularly strong if the woman was being treated by a male doctor. "Such research might include experimental interventions, or tests of more targeted training, to examine how exposing male physicians more thoroughly to the presentation of female patients might impact outcomes", they say. According to 2016 American Heart Association statement, 26 percent of women will die within a year of a heart attack compared with just 19 percent of men.

"And the BHF is already funding research into how we can improve the outcomes of women who have a heart attack".

Although women patients matched with women physicians have been studied before, this study is the first time heart attack outcomes were assessed for gender concordance. "If female patients tend to be more challenging for male and female doctors to diagnose and treat, the patterns we document may reflect the fact that the most skillful physicians (i.e., female physicians) provide the highest return to their skills when treating the most challenging patients (i.e., female patients)".

Patients treated by female physicians had a 0.2% difference in survival rates between genders: 12% of women died from their heart attack compared to 11.8% of men.

Brad Greenwood, Seth Carnahan, and Laura Huang analyzed two decades of records from Florida emergency rooms, including every patient who had been admitted with a heart attack from 1991 to 2010.

Overall, the team found that female physicians outperformed their male colleagues, and their patients were, on the whole, more likely to live.

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GRAPHIC: A graphic lists symptoms of heart attacks in women.

Even after taking these factors into account, they found that female patients were less likely to survive heart attacks than male patients. Are women more observant? Their symptoms can be seem vague or similar to flu-like symptoms: Fatigue, mild chest discomfort, sleep disturbances and shortness of breath. Dr. Robert H. Shmerling, who is the author of the Harvard Health Publishing blog post "Does your doctor's gender matter?" wrote about a few more reasons. "[Or] it could be because women are more likely to present atypically and female physicians are better at picking up cues than their male colleagues". This suggests that whatever female doctors are doing that's better is also transferable.

Prior research suggests that patients generally communicate better with caregivers of the same gender.

At the same time, the authors stop short of advocating that patients necessarily ask for their doctors to match their gender.

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.