Clinical Question: Does physician sex affect hospitalized patient outcomes?
Background: Previous studies had suggested different practice patterns between male and female physicians in process measure of quality. No prior evaluation of patient outcomes examining those differences was studied in the past.
Study Design: Observational, cross-sectional study.
Setting: U.S. national sample (20%) of Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 years or older, hospitalized with acute medical conditions.
Synopsis: This observational study assessed the difference in patients’ outcomes that were treated by a male or female physician. 30-days mortality rate was analyzed from 1,583,028 hospitalizations. The mortality rate of patients cared for by female physicians was lower and statistically significant: 11.07% vs. 11.49% (adjusted risk difference, –0.43%; 95% CI, –0.57% to –0.28%; P less than .001). The difference did not change after considering patient and physician characteristics as well as when looking at hospital fixed effects (that is, hospital indicators). In order to prevent one death, a female physician needs to treat 233 patients.
Also, 30-day readmission rate, after adjustment readmissions (from 1,540,797 hospitalizations) was 15.02% vs. 15.57% (adjusted risk difference, –0.55%; 95% confidence interval, –0.71% to 0.39%; P less than .001) showing that the care provided by a female physician can reduce one readmission when treating 182 patients.
Bottom line: Patients older than 65 years have lower 30-day mortality and readmission rates when receiving inpatient care from a female internist, compared with care by a male internist.
Citations: Tsugawa Y, Jena AB, Figueroa JF, et al. Comparison of hospital mortality and readmission rates for Medicare patients treated by male vs. female physicians. JAMA Intern Med. 2017 Feb;177(2):206-13.
Dr. Orjuela is assistant professor of neurology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora.