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Hospital News

December 21, 2016

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

Patients do better with female doctors?  Study suggests yes

Progressives may roll their eyes.  Conservatives may say, “See, I told you so!”

But a new study by Harvard researchers suggests that the notion of women as superior nurturers isn’t an old wives tale.  It found that patient outcomes were better with female physicians.

The study was based on three million Medicare records for hospitalizations and hospital readmissions among seniors nationwide over a four-year period. 

After limiting analysis to eight common medical conditions, equal male/female doctor treatment of varying illness severity, hospitals only (but not ICUs), same general patient age (80 on average) and same general age and experience of doctors (most in their 40s), the study still concluded that “patients who receive care from female general internists have lower 30-day mortality and readmission rates than do patients cared for by male internists.”

Specifically, the study found that patients treated by women had mortality rates of 11.07%, percent, compared with 11.49 percent for those seen by men.  It also found that readmission rates were 15.02 percent among those seen by women, compared with 15.57 percent for male physicians—and all after compensating for the abovementioned variables.

The study noted other studies finding “differences in practice patterns between male and female physicians,” with women doctors “more likely to adhere to clinical guidelines and evidence-based practice.”

According to existing medical literature, wrote the researchers, female physicians may also be more likely to “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.”

An estimated 32,000 fewer patients would die every year “if male physicians could achieve the same outcomes as female physicians,” the authors wrote. 

“There is evidence that men and women may practice medicine differently,” the study concluded.  “Understanding exactly why these differences in care quality and practice patterns exist may provide valuable insights into improving quality of care for all patients.”

The study was published Dec. 19 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Patient safety efforts save $28 billion

According to a Dec. 12 report by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS), new hospital patient safety programs created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) prevented 3.1 million harmful hospital-acquired conditions, as well as 125,000 patient deaths, from 2010 through 2015—also saving close to $28 billion in costs.

Medicare may pay hospitals more

The Payment Advisory Commission overseeing pay rates to professionals under Medicare, the taxpayer-funded healthcare plan for seniors, proposed slight increases for hospitals come 2018.

Under the proposal, Medicare would pay 1.85 percent more for hospital inpatient and outpatient services—but pay the same for ambulatory surgery centers, and cut pay to home health agencies.

However, the pay changes will only take effect if the proposal is formally voted in by the Commission in January 2017, and then sent to Congress in March 2017 for further discussion.