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.