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. Reuters frames it this way: If 1,000 women went to the ER with a heart attack, 15 more would die if treated by a man. Survival rates also increased if there were many female physicians in the ER, suggesting that female doctors assist their male colleagues in diagnosis, per the Guardian.
Another variable they cite, omitted in this study, is the previous finding by other researchers that female physicians tend to perform better than male physicians across a wide variety of ailments. "If female patients tend to be more challenging for male and female doctors to diagnose and treat, the patterns we document may reflect the fact that the most skillful physicians (i.e., female physicians) provide the highest return to their skills when treating the most challenging patients (i.e., female patients)".
A review of almost 582,000 heart attack cases over 19 years showed female patients had a significantly higher survival rate when a woman treated them in the emergency room.
Women who have a heart attack are more likely to survive if they are treated by a female doctor in hospital, a major United States study suggests.
Scientists said the difference may be caused by male doctors underestimating the risk of heart problems for women or by misdiagnosing symptoms.
"Especially in emergency medicine, where physicians are tasked with saving peoples' lives, it is assumed that physicians should be working to save everyone's lives equally", Laura Huang, professor at Harvard Business School and one of the study authors, told ABC News. In that case, 12.6 percent of men died compared to 13.3 percent of women.
The results show that both men and women have better outcomes for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) when treated by a female physician, but that the biggest difference between male and female physicians is in outcomes for women.
This study offers a new explanation for why gender inequality in heart attack mortality persists.
The figures suggest a woman would have 5.4 per cent less chance of dying from a heart attack if treated by a doctor of the same sex.
First, heart disease is often thought of as a "male" condition.
Female doctors may also simply be performing at least some parts of the job better than their male counterparts do.
"For example, a propensity among women to delay seeking treatment and the presentation of symptoms that differ from those of men". "It could be you have spillover between physicians", he says.
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.
"The key takeaway is that male physicians appear to have trouble treating female patients", Greenwood said.