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April 11, 2013

Study shows same costs, outcomes associated with both male and female physicians

A new study shows that contrary to previous research suggesting female doctors usually are associated with lower health care costs and their patients visit them less, that is not the case.

Does physician gender affect mortality rates?

The study published in the March/April Issue of The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found that the physician’s gender had no bearing on those factors nor on prescription drug expenses, mortality rates or office or emergency room visits.

"Our findings suggest that if the goal is to contain costs and the risk of death, there is no reason to differentially recruit or train physicians of either gender," says lead author Anthony Jerant, M.D., professor of family and community medicine at UC Davis. "We should instead focus on factors such as patients’ cigarette smoking and diet, which are known to influence health care utilization and mortality."

The observational study analyzed responses on more than 20,000 patients who participated in surveys between 2002 through 2008. Researchers noted weight, tobacco use and other patient behavioral factors that had not been accounted for in earlier studies, possibly affecting the outcome of previous research.

Some gender-specific trends exist

Researchers did note that some gender-specific trends were apparent. There seemed to be a higher number of female physicians caring for young, college-educated females in urban settings and more female physicians were non-Caucasian than male physicians.

A previous study conducted by the American Medical Association showed that although the number of women doctors had increased drastically in previous years, the compensation was still not quite the same as their male counterparts.

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