Women Physicians Refer Fewer Women Patients to Intensive Care Than Male Doctors

A study by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Soroka University Medical Center, both in Israel, finds that a female patient treated by a female physician is less likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit compared to a male patient treated by a male physician.

The study, which followed a large group of patients admitted to the resuscitation room in the emergency department at Soroka University Medical Center, showed female physicians treating women were less likely to admit their patients to the hospital’s restricted ICU, where beds and other resources are limited. According to the findings, female physicians admitted approximately 20 percent fewer of their female patients to the ICU than did male physicians, and 12 percent fewer female patients than male patients to the intensive cardiac care unit. Researchers found that this gender bias seems to occur most often when female doctors are recommending treatment for critically ill women.

“Previous studies show physicians are less likely to recognize symptoms that present differently in women, such as atypical chest pains, which can alter patient management and postpone delivery of crucial treatment,” says Dr. Iftach Sagy, a researcher at Soroka’s Clinical Research Center and the lead author of the study. “For the first time, we’ve demonstrated that a possible gender bias can influence decisions about who should be admitted to an ICU.”

The study was able to demonstrate that both patient and physician genders, as well as their combination, are key factors in making clinical decisions that determine level of care. “Current studies on the outcomes of critically ill patients show better outcomes for men,” says Dr. Sagy. “Women often have less-invasive procedures in both the emergency department and the ICU, which seems to contribute to a lower rate of ICU admission compared to men with the same illness level.”

The full study, “The Association Between the Patient and the Physician Genders and the Likelihood of Intensive Care Unit Admission in Hospital With Restricted ICU Bed Capacity,” was published in QJM: International Journal of Medicine. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study

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