Female MDs Provide Higher Quality Care

There may be a physician pay gap skewed in favor of male doctors, but a new study revealed that female physicians are outperforming male counterparts on certain care metrics.

There may be a physician pay gap skewed in favor of male doctors, but a new study revealed that female physicians are outperforming male counterparts on certain care metrics.

The research team at the University of Montreal found that female doctors provide higher quality of care while male doctors showed greater productivity. The team studied the billing information of more than 870 Quebec practitioners, half of whom were women, relating to their treatment of elderly diabetic patients.

"Women had significantly higher scores in terms of compliance with practice guidelines,” lead study author Valérie Martel told the university’s news. “They were more likely than men to prescribe recommended medications and to plan required examinations.”

To assess quality of care, the researchers relied on the recommendations of the Canadian Diabetes Association, which provides clear guidelines for clinical treatment of the disease, such as patients over the age of 65 undergoing an eye exam every two years and receiving three prescriptions for specific drugs.

Martel, who devoted her master’s thesis with the Department of Health Administration to the subject, was co-supervised by Roxane Borges Da Silva, professor at the Faculty of Nursing, and Régis Blais, professor at the department of Health Administration. She hypothesized that differences between male and female practices diminished over time.

“It seemed to me that more and more men are taking time with their patients at the expense of productivity, and more and more women tend to increase their number of procedures,” Martel said. “This aspect was shown: the younger the doctors, the less significant the differences.”

Among middle-aged doctors 75% of women required patients to undergo an eye exam compared to 70% of male doctors. However, male doctors reported nearly 1,000 more procedures on average per year. Blais warns that a more productive doctor isn’t necessarily more “profitable” for a hospital.

"Doctors who take the time to explain problems to their patients may avoid these patients returning after a month because they are worried about a detail," Blais said. “More productive physicians may not be the ones we think.”