Does a doctor’s race and gender matter for patient healthcare outcomes?

There is some evidence it plays a role, but studies are limited.

Research on a doctor’s race has focused on patient-physician race concordance, focusing on whether minority patients fare better when their doctor is the same race as them. Early studies showed mixed findings. Some recent studies, however, have found that minorities fare better when treated by race-concordant doctors; for example, Black newborns who were cared for by Black doctors showed a significant improvement in mortality.

Research on doctor gender has suggested that patients of female doctors fare better. One study showed that older adults treated by women, rather than men, doctors showed lower mortality and readmission rates. Another study sheds some light on why these results could have occurred, again finding that adult patients of female doctors showed lower mortality rates, but that this effect could be somewhat explained because women doctors tended to be closer to their residency training, and thus may have more up-to-date knowledge or more closely follow evidence-based practices.

There is also some evidence that patient-physician gender concordance can improve health outcomes, particularly for female patients; however, this effect is reduced when male doctors have more experience treating female patients.

A doctor’s race and gender can also shape the extent to which White patients respond to treatment. White patients showed a stronger placebo response to an inert cream placed on an allergic reaction when the provider who administered the cream was a White man or an Asian man, compared to when the provider was Black or a woman.

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