For female patients, the results of the operation tend to be significantly better when their surgeon is also female, recent research outside of Canada found.
No one is quite sure why, but a new model comparing the sex of the surgeon, the sex of the patient, and the results of surgery has now revealed an implicit bias that could cost patients their health and even their lives. .
The data is based on more than 1.3 million patients who underwent one of 21 common elective surgeries in Ontario, Canada between 2007 and 2019.
Overall, the analysis suggests that when a male surgeon treats a patient, that patient is 16% more likely to have complications, 20% more likely to stay in the hospital longer, and 32 % More risk of dying than if they were treated. by a female surgeon.
On the other hand, male patients treated by a surgeon were only 2% more likely to experience complications and 13% less likely to die than if they had seen a male surgeon.
The underlying reason (s) for this gap in care remains unclear, but this isn’t the first time that a study has found that a patient’s gender can impact how their doctor treats them.
In 2018, patients in Florida hospitals who sought care for heart attacks were found to have higher mortality when treated by male doctors.
In comparison, female physicians had more consistent results whether their patient was male or female.
Interestingly, male surgeons who were more exposed to female doctors and patients had better outcomes for women.
While some past studies suggest that female physicians order different follow-up tests and medications than male physicians, or that they no longer listen to their patients, more research is needed to determine which factors most influence these results. Once we can figure this out, we can start to mend the bias.
“Surgeons probably think they are providing the same quality of patient care, regardless of who they are” bed a guest commentary on the current article, written by surgeons Amalia Cochran and Andrea Riner of the University of Florida College of Medicine.
“However, these data highlight an underestimated phenomenon and point to a measurable impact of an implicit bias. Measures of surgeon outcomes with respect to patient identity should be developed and incorporated into performance reviews.”
Medical experts could also be better trained to improve their care and communication with patients, especially those with a different identity than their own, suggest Cochran and Riner.
While most of the findings to date suggest that patients are generally better off in the hands of female surgeons and physicians, the significant gender disparity in these professions means that many patients can never make that choice.
In 2020, a little more 27 percent of general surgeons in Canada were women. In the United States, the percentage is slightly lower. In both countries, female surgeons are paid much less than their male counterparts.
“Patients with surgical disease should not be at a disadvantage because there are simply not enough skilled surgeons to care for the patients,” the comment said. concludes.
âAlthough data is lacking, the concerns faced by patients undergoing surgery may be even greater for transgender and gender nonconforming patients.
The study was published in JAMA surgery.