Want to live longer? Get a woman doctor. That's the conclusion of a new Harvard study that found elderly patients are less likely to die if they are treated by a woman. If all doctors performed as well as women doctors, some 32,000 lives would be saved each year. And female docs are pulling this off while being paid less and promoted less often than men, notes NBC News. Why are women doing a better job? "The data out there says that women physicians tend to be a little bit better at sticking to the evidence and doing the things that we know work better," lead author Dr. Ashish Jha tells NBC. Previous research has shown "female physicians have a more patient-centered communication style, are more encouraging and reassuring, and have longer visits than male physicians," writes Dr. Anna Parks, per NBC.
Writing in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers examined the records of more than 1.5 million Medicare patients hospitalized for illnesses (excluding surgery) between 2011 and 2015. Less than 11.1% of those treated by women died within 30 days, compared to 11.5% treated by male doctors. While that might not seem like much, Jha tells WebMD, "It's similar to the number of people who die in motor vehicle accidents each year." Of those patients treated by women, about 15% had to be re-hospitalized within 30 days, compared with 15.5% treated by men. While the study can't prove that gender alone was responsible for extending lives, Jha's team made multiple efforts to rule out other factors, reports the Washington Post. Yet a study this year found a $20,000 pay gap between the sexes. At the very least, Dr. Vineet Arora tells the Post, "What is clear is that "having a female physician is an asset." (Pay parity for women expected in 170 years.)