Trending Now: Gender Equality in the Emergency Department

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Gender Inequality in the Waiting Room

Trending Now: Gender Equality in the Emergency Department

We are launching Trending Now to foster more discussion among our members on interesting healthcare topics and issues. Read on and weigh in with your thoughts.

Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm discovered that women were waiting longer for medical treatment and spending more time overall than men in their emergency department: Karolinska’s doctors and nurses didn’t feel that medical reasons entirely accounted for the time discrepancies. They worked with a team at global design consultancy Veryday to uncover possible explanations.

What they discovered was that a set a set of character traits may influence how long any particular patient waits. The traits are not necessarily male or female but are often associated with one or the other. For example, demanding patients who approach the counter often are seen more quickly than passive patients who quietly wait for their turn. In the study, men tended to be the more demanding ones while women were patient. Learn more about the study here.

Commentary

We asked Dr. Yves Duroseau, Chairman of Emergency Medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital (and NYCHBL member and speaker) for his perspective.

Yves Duroseau“This study is intriguing because is tackles from a fresh perspective a significant public health menace—gender disparity in healthcare.  The true root causes of these disparities are not firmly established.

Specifically, whether women wait longer than men for medical treatment in the ER has not been well studied in the United States.  The largest study on this matter was conducted in the UK (Goodacre S, Webster A, Emerg Med J 2005:22:93-96).  It concluded that time of presentation, rather than individual patient characteristics, seem to be the most powerful predictors of waiting time.

However, what is not in dispute is that across several healthcare indicators women do not receive the same level of care as men.   As published in the New England Journal of Medicine, women younger than 55 were seven times more likely to be misdiagnosed than men of the same age (N Engl J Med.2000:342:1163-1170). The designers of the Karolinska University Hospital study approached this dilemma in a novel way.  Understanding the role that behavioral characteristics play in this field may ultimately help clinicians better appreciate the genesis of their biases.”

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If you’d like to submit an idea, send your commentary to info@nychbl.com. Please reference an article or case study as part of the process. Submissions will be considered from members only. You can learn about membership here.