Women have a better chance of surviving heart attack if treated by female doctor

Women are more likely to survive an acute myocardial infarction (AMI) if their emergency room physician is also a woman, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“In this study, we found a distinct asymmetry in AMI mortality based on physician-patient gender concordance,” wrote first author Brad Greenwood, PhD, of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in Minneapolis. “This asymmetry was particularly notable for female patients, who are less likely to survive an AMI when treated by a male physician. We also found that male physicians are more effective at treating female AMI patients when they work with more female colleagues and when they have treated more female patients in the past.”

Greenwood and colleagues reviewed the data of more than 581,000 AMI patients admitted to Florida hospitals between 1991 and 2010.

They found the gender disparity in survival rates for patients treated by a female physician was only 0.2 percent—11.8 percent or men died, compared to 12 percent of women. For patients treated by a male physician, the gender disparity was 0.7 percent—12.6 percent of men died, compared to 13.3 percent of women.

“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,” Greenwood et al. wrote. “The fact that gender concordance correlates with whether a patient survives a heart attack has implications for theory and practice.”

The study also found female patients who were treated in the emergency department (ED) with 5 percent more female physicians were 0.4 percent more likely to survive. They also found women had a better survival rate with male physicians, provided they had a lot of female colleagues in the ED.

The researchers noted their results should make medical practitioners aware of the possible challenges male provides may face when treating AMI patients. They also noted that the addition of more female physicians could benefit the EDs.

“Interesting opportunities for research exist in an examination of the role played by residents, nurses, and other physicians who may be present or provide information to the supervising physician,” the researchers concluded. “We were unable to observe the effect of these actors in our study, but future work that considers these supporting figures would advance our understanding of how coordination between healthcare providers might influence the relationship between physician–patient gender concordance and patient survival.”