Nav: Home

Women survive heart attacks better with women doctors: Study

August 06, 2018

If you're having a heart attack and you're a woman, hope a female doctor greets you in the emergency room.

A review of nearly 582,000 heart attack cases over 19 years showed female patients had a significantly higher survival rate when a woman treated them in the ER, according to Seth Carnahan of Washington University in St. Louis, part of the project's three-member research team along with principal investigator Brad Greenwood of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and Laura Huang of Harvard University.

In fact, women had a better survival rate with male doctors who have a lot of female colleagues in the ER -- though they'd still be better off with a female physician. The results parallel similar studies of gender differences in medical outcomes, but the difference here, Carnahan said, is the stakes.

"You have highly trained experts with life or death on the line, and yet the gender match between the physician and the patient seems to matter a great deal," said Carnahan, associate professor of strategy at the Olin Business School.

The conclusions are central to a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences entitled "Patient-Physician Gender Concordance and Increased Mortality Among Female Heart Attack Patients," coauthored with Greenwood of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management and the Harvard Business School's Huang.

Though the topic focuses on medical outcomes in a healthcare setting, Carnahan said the conclusions are relevant to business because the big picture is about gender differences in the workplace. It's a subject that has interested him for a long time, particularly after hearing how his sister's experiences in male-dominated workplaces differed from his own.

"Interpersonal interactions, whether they are between a doctor and patient or a manager and a subordinate, create the core of an organization," he said. "I'm very interested in how these interactions determine a firm's performance and influence the lives of its managers, employees, and customers."

The team reviewed a trove of anonymous medical data from Florida hospitals from 1991 to 2010. These data allowed the team to measure important factors like the age, race, and medical history of patients, hospital quality and more. Even accounting for these factors, the team found female patients were less likely to survive heart attacks than male patients and that gender differences in survival rates were the highest under male physicians.

For patients treated by female physicians, the gender disparity in survival rates was about 0.2 percent. In other words, 11.8 percent of men died, versus about 12 percent of women.

However, for patients treated by male physicians, the gender gap in survival more than tripled to 0.7 percent. In that case, 12.6 percent of men died compared to 13.3 percent of women.

"Our work corroborates prior research showing that female doctors tend to produce better patient outcomes than male doctors," Carnahan said. "The novel part of what we are doing is showing that the benefit of having a female doctor is particularly stark for a female patient."

In reviewing the conditions that most favored female patients, the team found that female survival rates rose as the percentage of female doctors in the ER rose -- particularly if the treating physician was male. The "male bias" effect also declined the more the male doctors had treated female patients.

Those mitigating factors "suggest that having training programs that are more gender neutral, or showing how men and women might present symptoms differently, could improve outcomes for female patients," Carnahan said.

The research is similar to another Carnahan-Greenwood collaboration documenting how female lawyers were less likely to advance in their firms with promotions and plum assignments when they worked for politically conservative male law partners.

The current paper, however, moves outside the employer-employee arena, where gender bias is well documented in certain circumstances.

"Employee-customer relationships don't have as much research in this area, and you can think of a physician and a patient being a customer relationship," Carnahan said. "I think organizations that get this right can outperform other firms and produce better outcomes for all of their stakeholders."
-end-


Washington University in St. Louis

Related Heart Attack Articles:

Where you live could determine risk of heart attack, stroke or dying of heart disease
People living in parts of Ontario with better access to preventive health care had lower rates of cardiac events compared to residents of regions with less access, found a new study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Activated T-cells drive post-heart attack heart failure
Chronic inflammation after a heart attack can promote heart failure and death.
ICU care for COPD, heart failure and heart attack may not be better
Does a stay in the intensive care unit give patients a better chance of surviving a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or heart failure flare-up or even a heart attack, compared with care in another type of hospital unit?
Heart attack treatment might be in your face
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have received $2.4 million in federal funding to pursue research on a novel cell therapy that would repair heart damage using modified cells taken from the patient's own facial muscle.
Tissue engineering advance reduces heart failure in model of heart attack
Researchers have grown heart tissue by seeding a mix of human cells onto a 1-micron-resolution scaffold made with a 3-D printer.
Study shows functional effects of human stem cell delivery to heart muscle after heart attack
Researchers delivered human stem cells seeded in biological sutures to the damaged heart muscles of rats following induced acute myocardial infarction and assessed the effects on cardiac function one week later.
Younger heart attack survivors may face premature heart disease death
For patients age 50 and younger, the risk of premature death after a heart attack has dropped significantly, but their risk is still almost twice as high when compared to the general population, largely due to heart disease and other smoking-related diseases The risk of heart attack can be greatly reduced by quitting smoking, exercising and following a healthy diet.
After the heart attack: Injectable gels could prevent future heart failure (video)
During a heart attack, clots or narrowed arteries block blood flow, harming or killing cells in the heart.
Heart failure after first heart attack may increase cancer risk
People who develop heart failure after their first heart attack have a greater risk of developing cancer when compared to first-time heart attack survivors without heart failure, according to a study today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
1 in 4 patients develop heart failure within 4 years of first heart attack
One in four patients develop heart failure within four years of a first heart attack, according to a study in nearly 25,000 patients presented today at Heart Failure 2016 and the 3rd World Congress on Acute Heart Failure by Dr.

Related Heart Attack Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Changing The World
What does it take to change the world for the better? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on activism—what motivates it, why it matters, and how each of us can make a difference. Guests include civil rights activist Ruby Sales, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, author Jeremy Heimans, "craftivist" Sarah Corbett, and designer and futurist Angela Oguntala.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#520 A Closer Look at Objectivism
This week we broach the topic of Objectivism. We'll be speaking with Keith Lockitch, senior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, about the philosophy of Objectivism as it's taught through Ayn Rand's writings. Then we'll speak with Denise Cummins, cognitive scientist, author and fellow at the Association for Psychological Science, about the impact of Objectivist ideology on society. Related links: This is what happens when you take Ayn Rand seriously Another Critic Who Doesn’t Care What Rand Thought or Why She Thought It, Only That She’s Wrong Quote is from "A Companion to Ayn Rand"