Women are widely believed to make for good care-givers. But does that make them better doctors?

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine finds that having a female doctor gives better treatment outcomes. A patient is less likely to die, or get re-admitted in hospital, if treated by a female doctor, the study conducted by doctors at Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health in the United States shows.

The study examines data of hospitalised Medicare beneficiaries and found that patients treated by female doctors have a 11.49% chance of morality rate, as opposed to 11.07% morality rate if treated by male doctors. Although the difference in patient mortality between male and female physicians was modest, the study argues that it is a “clinically meaningful difference.”

The study estimates that approximately 32,000 fewer patients would die if male physicians could achieve the same outcomes as female physicians every year.

“These findings suggest that the differences in practice patterns between male and female physicians, as suggested in previous studies, may have important clinical implications for patient outcomes,” the paper said.

It is not very clear why the differences in outcomes exists. Research has shown that men and women practice medicine differently. Female doctors are more likely to adhere to clinical guidelines, more often provide preventive care, communicate with patients better, and provide psycho-socio counseling to their patients.

“Understanding exactly why these differences in care quality and practice patterns exist may provide valuable insights into improving quality of care for all patients, irrespective of who provides their care,” the authors said.

Other doctors though, have said that this study results are at most preliminary, and not something for patients to act on. There is also a need for further research on why the outcomes were better with female physicians, they said.