The authors of a JAMA study that came out last year showed that Medicare patients treated by female physicians have lower mortality and re-admission rates than their male-treated counterparts. The authors studied Medicare patients treated by 58,344 physicians between 2011 and 2014. Controlling for other factors such as patient type and practice location, the researchers found that patients treated by female physicians had a 4 percent lower relative risk of dying, and a 5 percent lower relative risk of being re-admitted.
Those are significant numbers, so significant that if the reasons for the disparity could be identified and corrected, approximately 32,000 lives could be saved a year among Medicare patients alone.
The study didn’t say precisely why female physicians had better outcomes, but researchers pointed to previous studies that show women tend to practice more effective communication at the bedside, recommend more preventative care, and engage in more psycho-social counseling of patients.
Given this evidence, the female physician should be one of the most coveted recruits in all of medicine. As a physicians group, US Acute Care Solutions (USACS) has made it a priority to become a destination employer of choice for women. The company last year introduced a groundbreaking (and industry-leading) new parental leave policy, and has hired women physicians into top leadership positions throughout the company. USACS also has robust education and mentoring programs aimed at supporting its physicians to develop their leadership and career goals.
Suffice to say, USACS has made recruiting female physicians a strategic imperative. What the JAMA study shows is that not only should physician groups be recruiting female physicians as a matter of quality, they should be learning from them as well.
The assertion that there is something in the way female physicians practice that is inherently “better” than male physicians shouldn’t be threatening. On the contrary, it’s a call to action for every physician group dedicated to quality improvement to examine the role of gender in their practice environment and share results through its educational and training programs.