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Patients treated by female physicians may have lower readmission, death rates

Elderly patients treated by female internists had lower rates of hospital readmission and death, according to a study in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Elderly patients who are treated by female internists typically have lower rates of hospital readmission and death than those who are treated by male physicians, according to a study published earlier this month in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The study examined more than 1.5 million hospitalizations of Medicare patients from 2011 through 2014, Modern Healthcare reported. More than 58,000 physicians, about one-third of whom were women, cared for the patients. The patients who were treated by female physicians had 30-day adjusted mortality rates of 11.07%, vs. 11.49% among patients treated by male physicians. The 30-day adjusted readmission rate was 15.02% for patients treated by women and 15.57% for patients treated by men.

The female physicians in the study were more likely to be DOs, to be younger, and to have treated fewer patients compared with the male physicians in the study, although the authors note that these differences shouldn’t affect the study’s findings.

It’s not clear why the female doctors’ patients in this study fared better, but some analysis has suggested that communication skills and empathy may give female physicians an edge. Those are among the key skills of osteopathic physicians, who are trained to partner with patients and take a holistic, empathetic approach to care.

To learn more, read Modern Healthcare or NPR‘s analysis of the research, or check out the complete study in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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