The Gut Health Blog

The Life-Saving Impact of Female Physicians: Patient Care and Outcomes

Apr 30, 2024

The world of healthcare is rapidly evolving. Many decisions can mean the difference between life and death. Believe it or not, the gender of your physician might play a significant role. The recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, sheds a light. It shows that patients treated by female doctors often experience better hospital outcomes compared to those treated by their male counterparts. 

Women in Healthcare

Women make up more than half of medical students currently, but there are not as many women in leadership positions or in certain specialties. Only 20% of gastroenterologists are women. While there are definitely some changes being made, more can be done. You should find a physician that works best for you, but don't be surprised if she doesn't fit your preconceived notion of what a doctor should look like. 

Sexism in Healthcare

Women continue to make less than than their male counterparts, are spoken over by their male colleagues in meetings, are mistaken for others, are often addressed by their first name instead of "Doctor," and are excluded from leadership positions. I personally have experienced the following:

  • People constantly mixing up myself with other South Asian colleagues, even after multiple corrections
  • Comments on my physical appearance
  • Having to strongly negotiate for maternity leave as I was the first woman in my practice
  • Comments during my pregnancy and assuming I would work part time after having my second child
  • Asked if I was the Gujarati interpreter (I'm not even Gujarati but that's a separate issue)
  • Addressed as Ms. or by my first name in a professional setting
  • Asked if I was my husband's resident
  • Asked why a "nice girl" like me would do Gastroenterology

Let's Look at the Evidence of Having a Female Physician 

Despite all that, one study outlines several key areas where female physicians showed superior outcomes. These included more participatory office visits, and greater likelihood to use preventative medicine. Building on this foundation, a study published in April took the analysis further, revealing that women hospitalized and treated by female physicians had lower death rates. This is especially true among ill patients. 

Female doctors often spend more time with their patients, engaging in more in-depth discussions about their concerns and treatment options. This builds a stronger doctor-patient relationship. It also leads to a better understanding of the patient's condition and needs.

Female physicians reportedly score higher in showing empathy. This plays a crucial role in effective patient care. Empathetic interactions encourage patients to be more open about their symptoms. It also encourages them to follow through with prescribed treatments.

Another key factor in outcomes with female physicians is emphasis on preventative care. Women doctors are more likely to suggest and put in place preventative measures. This reduces the chances of severe illnesses and complications. Female physicians focus on prevention as much as treatment. This contributes to the well-being of their patients.

Support Women in Medicine - It Just Might Save Your Life

These insights are not intended to diminish the skills and dedication of male physicians. The goal is to spotlight areas where healthcare, as a whole, can improve. Recognizing the strengths brought by female physicians can help guide training. It can also benefit all doctors, enhancing patient care across the board. This growing body of evidence supports a broader discussion. It highlights the importance of diversity and inclusivity in healthcare. By valuing the strengths that all genders bring to medicine, the healthcare industry can advance toward a better future. 

 In the end, the goal is clear. We need to ensure that every patient receives the highest standard of care.


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