Are hospitals failing women patients?

When it comes to hospital visits, women tend to leave far less satisfied than their male counterparts.

Are hospitals treating men and women unequally? Or, should health care providers make more of a distinction between the needs of male and female patients?

These are some of the questions raised yesterday by Dr. Pauline Chen's New York Times blog article. She cites a recent study of patients' perception of hospital care, published in the journal Health Services Research.

The researchers found that compared to men, women tend to be more unhappy with their inpatient experience.

  • Female patients were especially more dissatisfied than men regarding the quality of the information they received when discharged, and also the cleanliness of the hospital.
  • The gender gap in overall satisfaction grew for older and sicker patients.
  • The disparities were also larger in for-profit hospitals.

The study’s lead author, Marc N. Elliott, a senior statistician at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, tells Chen:

"What patients require when they are ill and feeling vulnerable is not the same. What’s becoming clear is that we are not meeting the needs of female patients."

It seems this is less an issue of hospitals treating women worse than men, and more an issue of realizing that women patients may have different expectations for care than men. Chen says that currently health care efforts "tend to treat patients as a monolithic group," and she champions more personalized approaches.

Interestingly enough, Elliot's research article suggests addressing the concerns raised in this study by using another generalized approach. He proposes hospitals adopt an approach towards all patients that targets the care expectations of women, since they make up the majority of all inpatients, and appear to hold hospitals to higher standards.

[via The New York Times]

Photo: Dan4th Nicholas/Flickr

This post was originally published on


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