Those mitigating factors "suggest that having training programs that are more gender neutral, or showing how men and women might present symptoms differently, could improve outcomes for female patients", Carnahan said.
The researchers divided 500,000-plus cases into four categories: male doctors treating men; male doctors treating women; female doctors treating men; and female doctors treating women.
The results from more than 580,000 patients reveals that overall, 11.9% of heart attack patients died while in hospital. When the researchers looked at patients matched with a doctor of their own sex, that figure improved...
To put some numbers on these differences, the survival rate for men treated by female doctors is 88.1 percent, compared with 86.6 percent for women treated by male doctors-a reduction of 1.5 percentage points. They found that female patients treated by male physicians were less likely to survive compared with patients of either gender treated by female physicians or male patients treated by male physicians.
"You have highly trained experts with life or death on the line, and yet the gender match between the physician and the patient seems to matter a great deal", said Carnahan, one of a handful of new faculty at the Olin Business School. Similarly, they might wrongly assume that women's heart attacks are just like men's, even though women can sometimes have different symptoms.
The findings are reported in "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences".
The research is similar to another Carnahan-Greenwood collaboration documenting how female lawyers were less likely to advance in their firms with promotions and plum assignments when they worked for politically conservative male law partners. That, said Greenwood, could be because female doctors might share their experience in tackling heart attacks in women.
"These results", they write, "suggest a reason why gender inequality in heart attack mortality persists: Most physicians are male, and male physicians appear to have trouble treating female patients".
Also, given the gender bias in outcomes, hospital administrators may also want to narrow the pay gap between male and female doctors.
"Female physicians may follow clinical guidelines more often", he said in the post. "A male physician sees a female physician treat a female patient successfully, and sees potential cues". But a new study has revealed that, when it comes to certain conditions, whether your doctor is male or female could actually impact on your chances of survival.
And because heart attacks come about suddenly, patients are rarely able to choose their doctor - or his or her gender - when entering an emergency department.