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Dec 19, 2018

Women with Heart Disease Report Worse Treatment and Patient Satisfaction Than Men

Women are less likely to be taking preventive medicines and seek care at the ER more frequently.

The quality of care patients receive for heart disease may depend largely on their sex, based on a recent study that found women with heart disease report worse outcomes compared to men. Findings were published in the Journal of the American Heart Association and raise concerns about gender differences when it comes to quality of care.

Using national data from the 2006–2015 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, this study looked at patient-reported outcomes among men and women living with heart disease. Outcomes included patient experience, perception of health and quality of life—all of which are known to influence risk for heart events and survival rates.

The study included a total of 21,353 U.S. adults with heart disease, nearly half of who were women. Together, participants are representative of more than 23 million Americans, as they had diverse backgrounds and came from all parts of the country.

The goal of the recent analysis was to see if patient-reported outcomes differ between men and women with heart disease. Heart disease is the leading killer of Americans, accounting for an estimated 1 in 4 deaths. While it’s an equal opportunity killer, data suggests that women experience different treatment and outcomes compared to men.

To learn more, researchers analyzed responses from the Medical Expenditure Survey, which annually surveys U.S. adults about their health care experiences. Sample questions include “How often did health care providers explain things in a way that was easy to understand?” and “How would you rate health care from all doctors and other health providers?”. Participants were also asked about which medications they were taking, such as aspirin or cholesterol-lowering statins.

Based on responses, experts found that women with heart disease were 25% more likely to report poor patient-provider communication and 12% more likely to experience lower health care satisfaction compared to men. Women were also 15% more likely to report poorer health status based on a standardized quality of life assessment.

It’s unlikely that these differences are all in patients’ heads. Surveys showed that women with heart disease were less likely to be taking aspirin and statins, which reduce risk for heart events like heart attack and stroke. Women were also more likely to have visited the Emergency Department two or more times a year compared to men.

Unfortunately, findings suggest that women with heart disease experience poorer quality of care than men, which can result in poorer patient satisfaction and outcomes. As a result, authors encourage future studies to help explore these gender differences. Authors also highlight the need for efforts to help ensure that women and men receive the same quality of care, regardless of their gender.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What are health disparities?
  • Health disparities refer to differences in health outcomes or burdens of disease between groups of people. Health disparities can exist between different populations of race, sex, income, or even geographic location. In health care, the goal is to eliminate these differences so all individuals have the same ability to achieve good health.
  • What are significant differences in the cardiovascular health of women vs. men?

  • While additional research is needed further understand the cardiovascular differences between men and women, one significant variation is among heart attack symptoms. For men, the most common sign of a heart attack is pain or pressure in the chest. Women, on the other hand, are more likely than men to have unusual or "atypical" signs of a heart attack, and some of these symptoms may come and go. The danger is that many women are unaware of these differences in symptoms, and will often disregard a heart attack for fatigue or the flu. There are additional recognized differences between men and women, including the time at which the disease sets in, severity of shared risk factors and the presence of unique risk factors associated with hormonal changes and pregnancy.

Featured Video

Women often experience heart attack symptoms differently than men. It's important for a woman to be able to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack and react quickly by calling 911.


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