A new study found that individuals treated by female physicians had lower mortality and re-admission rates than the patients treated by male physicians. While the difference was only 0.5 percent, researchers concluded that 32,000 deaths could have been avoided if those individuals had seen female doctors.

Researchers analyzed hospital data of Medicare patients to determine the effects of differing medical practices between genders. Previous studies have proven a difference between male and female practices (female physicians are more likely to follow clinical guidelines and provide more patient-centered communication), but this is the first to also analyze mortality rates.

Female physicians make up about one third of the U.S. physician workforce and half of all U.S. medical school graduates. Senior author of the study, Ashish Jha, emphasized the importance of further research.

“There was ample evidence that male and female physicians practice medicine differently. Our findings suggest that those differences matter and are important to patient health. We need to understand why female physicians have lower mortality so that all patients can have the best possible outcomes, irrespective of the gender of their physician,” Jha said.

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