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Are female doctors better than their male counterparts?

Everyone wants to have the best possible doctor, whether for annual check-ups, treatment of a serious or chronic condition or major surgery. A doctor's gender should be irrelevant. However, a recently-published study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found that outcomes for patients with female doctors were better than for those with male doctors.

Researchers looked at more than a million patients' mortality and hospital readmission rates. Those who had female physicians had lower 30-day mortality rates and readmission rates than those treated by male doctors. The patients whose data was included in the study were 65 years old and above. All were hospitalized. The physicians included all specialized in internal medicine.

The study noted that the difference in outcomes may be due to the fact that "female doctors may be more likely to adhere to clinical guidelines, provide preventive care more often, use more patient-centered communication, perform as well or better on standardized examinations, and provide more psychosocial counseling to their patients than do their male peers."

These findings are important in part because the number of female physicians has increased over the years. They now make up about half of all medical school graduates, even though they earn less, on average, than their male counterparts.

Obviously, doctors of both genders can make errors -- sometimes serious and even fatal ones. However, what the medical community can learn from studies like these is what characteristics of female doctors result in better patient outcomes and emphasize them as they train all medical students and residents.

Whether you have a male or female doctor, if you believe that your physician is not listening to you or providing the care you deserve, you have the right to ask for that or seek another physician.

Source: CNN, "Have a female doctor? You could live longer," Jennifer Caudle, Dec. 22, 2016

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