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Recent Studies Reveal Ongoing Dismissal of Women’s Health Concerns

Written by Elizabeth Gilbert

A Woman Lying on a Hospital Bed

Year after year, studies confirm the continuation of a gender disparity in our healthcare system.  Whether it is the decreased likelihood that women in the emergency department will be admitted when presenting with chest pain, the way women’s reported pain is discounted and undertreated, or the gaps in medical research that result from women being underrepresented in clinical trials, the message is clear: women’s health is not prioritized appropriately.

There are countless examples of how this unfolds across our healthcare system’s landscape.  A 2018 literature review study on gender bias in health care revealed providers view men with pain conditions as “brave” or “stoic” and women with such conditions as “emotional” or “hysterical.”  The study also revealed that providers are more likely to treat women’s pain as a product of a mental health condition as opposed to a physical condition.  A 2022 study of young adults presenting to the emergency department with chest pain indicated that women wait 29% longer than men to be seen by a provider.  In a 2020 study on sex differences in pharmacokinetics, researchers determined that there were significantly higher rates of adverse side effects in women as compared to men because women frequently metabolize drugs more slowly than men, leading to higher levels of drug exposure.  This issue stems from the fact that drugs are often prescribed to men and women in the same dose, and most drugs currently in use were approved based on clinical trials conducted predominantly on men.

Importantly, women who are members of racial and ethnic minorities face even greater challenges in accessing quality care than non-Hispanic White women, including in the areas of maternal health and cancer treatment.  For instance, Black women are less likely than White women to receive radiation therapy in conjunction with a mastectomy.

Sadly, the ongoing gender disparity in healthcare can have serious consequences for women.  Indeed, women are more likely than men to experience medical malpractice at the hands of the providers they trust with their medical care.

What Can Providers Do to Address Gender Disparity in Healthcare?

Duke Health recommends the following steps be taken by providers to improve care for female patients:

  1. Have diverse healthcare teams and encourage discussion of gender or other bias during team meetings.
  2. Ask patients open-ended questions as these questions are less likely to be contaminated by bias, such as “What am I missing that is important for us to talk about?”
  3. Consider what questions would be asked if the patient was a different gender.
  4. Collect and analyze data to illuminate any differences in care.
  5. Utilize computerized checklists to ensure all patients undergo the same evaluation.
  6. Attend training opportunities on patient experiences and patient communication to become aware of biases.

What Can You Do if You or a Loved One Suffers the Consequences of Medical Malpractice?

If you believe that you or a loved one have suffered the consequences of medical malpractice, you should reach out to an attorney right away.  Contact the experienced attorneys at Berkowitz and Hanna, LLC if you have any questions about your legal rights regarding this concern.  To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, call or contact us online today.