Salaries for female physicians average some $19,879—eight percent—lower than male physicians. At academic hospitals, male physicians receive more research funding and are more than twice as likely as female physicians to rise to the rank of full professor.
These disparities have historically been attributed to the effects of disproportionate domestic responsibilities—including maternity leave and subsequent part-time schedules. As physicians Rita Redberg and Anna Parks note, this can be perceived to “undermine the quality of female physicians’ work and explain male physicians’ higher salaries.”
But no. Female physicians actually tend to provide higher-quality medical care than males, according to research released today. If male physicians were as adept as females, some 32,000 fewer Americans would die every year—among Medicare patients alone.
The research is published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers from Harvard University reviewed the records of 1,583,028 hospital visits among Medicare patients. Within 30 days of arriving at the hospital, rates of death and re-admission were significantly lower when the patient’s doctor was female.
This was true for people with medical conditions of all sorts and severities. The researchers tried to account for every variable; but ultimately all that was left was the finding that women are superior to men at treating these (65-and-older) patients in the hospital. The association held true even for patients who were randomly assigned to a physician when they arrived. People treated by a female had a 4 percent lower relative risk of dying and 5 percent lower relative risk of being admitted to the hospital again in the following month.