The neurologist who treats my MS is a woman. So is my primary care physician. I wouldn’t have it any other way, and an article in The New York Times makes me feel my decision is the right one.
Patient studies tell the tale
The Times article points to a recent study of more than half a million patients admitted to emergency rooms for heart problems over a two-decade period in Florida. Whether the patient was a man or a woman, the survival rate was better if the patient was treated by a woman.
Another study, this one of 1.6 million hospitalized Medicare patients in Florida, found that patients were less likely to die or to be quickly readmitted to the hospital after being discharged if their doctor was a woman.
Let’s talk about it
Over the years, a number of studies have reported on the importance of doctor-patient communications. (I wrote a column about that last year.) Some have found that women doctors spend just a little more time with their patients than men doctors do. More time may also mean more listening.
Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a cardiologist who wrote the book “Women Are Not Small Men,” put it this way in the Times story: “Patients not only want you to take care of them in terms of making the right diagnosis, they also want to feel heard, and a big part of health care is the communication piece.” That, says Dr. Goldberg, is why one of her patients sought out a woman doctor. The article says the patient felt a previous male doctor didn’t “take the time to explain things to her and answer her questions.”
The Times also quotes Dr. Don Barr, a professor at Stanford Medical School. He says male doctors are notorious for interrupting patients. Dr. Barr wrote an article about one study in which female primary care physicians waited an average of three minutes before interrupting a patient. Male doctors waited an average of 47 seconds.
“The fact that the doctor is hearing what you are saying and cares about you and understands what you are going through makes coping with the illness and the implications of the illness that much easier,” Dr. Barr told the newspaper.
Woman or man?
That’s the way it’s been with my two women doctors. I never feel rushed. I always believe they listen to what I’m saying. That’s not to say there aren’t male physicians who are just as empathetic. In fact, my wife just made an appointment to see a new doctor and was told that the first appointment of the day is best because the doctor takes a lot of time with patients and is always running behind. And that doctor is a man. But think about it: When you’re in a conversation who listens to you more closely? I’m just wondering.
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