Women more likely to survive heart attacks if treated by another woman

Leslie Hanson
August 9, 2018

"Getting to an ER in a timely fashion is likely to matter more than the gender of one's physician".

"Female physicians may follow clinical guidelines more often", he said in the post. According to 2016 American Heart Association statement, 26 percent of women will die within a year of a heart attack compared with just 19 percent of men. That could mean that "female patients are more comfortable advocating for themselves with a female physician" or that "male physicians aren't getting all the cues they need to make the diagnosis" when dealing with female patients, he said.

The team also found that survival rates for women rose as the percentage of female doctors working in the accident and emergency unit increased, especially if the physician in charge was male. "Still, she adds, the study raises many troubling questions about the treatment of women in the ER, "like the concern there's a systematic bias where male physicians are not listening to female patients" complaints as readily as [those of] a man". In other words, 11.8 percent of men died, versus about 12 percent of women.

Although a lot more research is needed, the results confirm how different women's symptoms can seem when they come into the emergency room for a heart attack.

Research published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that female patients are two to three times more likely to survive a heart attack when the doctor overseeing their care is also a woman.

The new study highlights the importance of having "a strong female physician workforce", said Jennifer Haythe, co-director of Columbia Women's Heart Centre at the Columbia University Medical Centre.

There's a odd gender paradox at the heart of cardiovascular disease.

For women suffering from the symptoms of a heart attack, a team of researchers from Harvard Business School has a very simple recommendation that could save lives: request a woman physician.

Among patients who survived, women treated by male doctors spent more time in the hospital before being released, further suggesting worse medical care. The study called for more women doctors on emergency wards, and for training to be improved so that heart attacks are not seen as a male-only issue.

"Finally", they write, "interesting opportunities for research exist in an examination of the role played by residents, nurses, and other physicians who may be present or provide information to the supervising physician...future work that considers these supporting figures would advance our understanding of how coordination between [all] healthcare providers might influence the relationship between physician-patient gender concordance and patient survival".

While the most common symptoms of heart attacks in both the genders is chest pain or discomfort, sometimes both can experience different symptoms before experiencing a heart attack which the female doctors are able to identify faster, said Seth Carnahan of Washington University and one of the authors of the study. "I would hope that in reading this leaders in emergency medicine-whether directors or department chairs-would consider that we are an asset beyond being a diverse workforce".

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