In other words, the more female doctors a hospital had in their emergency room, the better the outcomes were for female heart attack patients.
Despite cardiovascular disease being the leading cause of mortality in American women, there is a societal stigma that heart attacks affect men rather than women. "If they are concerned that they may be having a heart attack they should ask the treating physician - man or woman - if they have had an appropriate evaluation to determine this, and if not, why not".
Previous studies based on data from Australia and Sweden have revealed that men and women experience different care if they have a heart attack, while United Kingdom research has shown women are more likely to be misdiagnosed.
For both men and women, the same advice on preventing heart attacks applies - and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 80 percent of heart disease, especially heart attacks, can be avoided by modifying lifestyle behavior.
The study confirms what years of research on "gender concordance" have shown - that matching the gender of the doctor and patient can lead to better health outcomes. Under the care of male doctors, 13.3 percent of women died versus 12.6 percent of men - a difference roughly three times greater.
The outcome: Women are more likely to die from heart attacks than men are. But a heart attack in women often starts with harder-to-interpret flu-like symptoms along with an aching jaw and spine. Female patients treated by male doctors were 1.5% less likely to survive a heart attack than those seen by a woman doctor.
"When someone is suffering from a heart attack, you might expect that there would be no gender differences because every physician will go in trying to save their patient's life", said Laura Huang, a psychology professor at Harvard Business School and another of the study's co-authors.More news: NBA, USA Basketball Blindsided By NCAA's Proposed 'Elite' Prospect Rule
The solution may be simply to add more female doctors in emergency departments, researchers argued. Even after accounting for these factors, women were still less likely to survive when treated by a male ER doctor.
"It's important to not get caught up in the idea that women are better doctors", said Dr. Klea Bertakis, a physician and researcher at the University of California, Davis, who studies gender dynamics in health care.
"We also found that male physicians are more effective at treating female AMI patients when they work with more female colleagues and when they have treated more female patients in the past", wrote Greenwood, Carnahan, and Huang.
But when female physicians took charge of treatment, those percentages fell - to 11.8% of men and 12% of women. Specifically, a study found that patients who were treated by female doctors had lower mortality and readmission rates.
What's more, female survival improved based on how many female doctors were employed in the hospital's emergency department.
"The key takeaway is that male physicians appear to have trouble treating female patients", Greenwood said.