9 August 2018 Blog Post: Is There a (Female) Doctor in the House?
An astonishing new study of more than 582,000 heart attack patients in the State of Florida showed that female heart attack patients fared better when treated for by a female Emergency Department physician. In fact, female heart attack patients cared for by female ER doctors were two to three times more likely to survive than those cared for by male doctors
The authors suggest several potential explanations for this finding. One theory is that being seen by a physician of the same gender leads to an improved communication of symptoms. However, the study’s own data do not support this idea as female physicians cared for male heart attack patients just as well as their male counterparts.
Another explanation is that women may have an ‘atypical’ (this characterization always bothers me somewhat because heart attack symptoms for women are, in fact, typical for them) presentation. As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain. It may be that female Emergency Department physicians are better able to discern a critical piece of information in the patient history.
However, there is some good news for male Emergency Department physicians. Practice makes perfect! Improvements in patient survival rates were noted among male physicians as they spent more time in practice.
Also, the composition of the Emergency Department staff was important. The study found that female patients treated in Emergency Departments with a higher percentage of female physicians also experienced better outcomes.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. A heart attack strikes someone about every 43 seconds. It occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely. This happens because the arteries that supply the heart with blood can slowly narrow from a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances (plaque). The American Heart Association’s Go Red campaign was created in 2004 to encourage awareness and action around heart disease in women.
Patients do not typically have a choice of treating physician in the Emergency Department but based on this study it seems that Emergency Departments with a meaningful percentage of female attending physicians is good medicine in heart attack survival. For everybody.
𝗦𝗶𝗴𝗻 𝗨𝗽 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗢𝘂𝗿 𝗡𝗲𝘄𝘀𝗹𝗲𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿
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