Using data from a nationwide survey that represents 11 million women with heart and blood vessel diseases, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say women continue to report significant disparities in the care they receive compared with men. And the root problem, many women say, is that health care providers don’t listen to or respect them.

Decades of research shows that early identification, treatment and attention to such risk factors as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, obesity, family history of cardiovascular disease and diabetes can substantially reduce disease burden and deaths. Lifestyle changes, smoking cessation and drugs such as statins are proven mainstays of risk reduction.

But the results of a new study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, add to evidence that physicians who care for women may be less conscious of and attentive to these risk factors in their female patients, and that women sense that their concerns are not taken as seriously as they should be.

While some metrics evaluated in the study, such as medications and hospital visits, were obtained objectively, the researchers caution that the participants’ reports of their communication and experiences with their health care providers were based upon the participants’ own ratings rather than objective standards, so those findings may be subject to this bias. The study wasn’t designed to objectively determine whether women actually had poorer encounters than men.

Health care Experiences

It’s possible that social expectations may influence how women perceive their health care experiences. For example, women may want more participation in deciding their care or may want a more interactive experience with their health care provider than men, which may impact their overall patient satisfaction.” Michos

Michos says past studies have shown that people with positive experiences with their health care providers report better health and better quality of life, and her team designed the new study to better understand how women (and men) with cardiovascular disease rated their experiences with health care providers and perceived their care.

One in 4 women reported dissatisfaction with their health care providers, with women reporting a 12% higher rate of poor satisfaction with their health care overall compared with men.

Survey data rating

Women were 23% more likely than men to report that their doctors never or only sometimes listened to them, and 20% more likely to report that their doctor never or only sometimes showed them respect. In survey data rating their quality of life, women also scored lower than men in both the physical and mental health components.

Our study suggests that women with cardiovascular disease aren’t getting the same attention and treatment as men with cardiovascular disease, and this can have real-world effects on patient outcomes. We should be more proactive and provide more equitable care for all our patients, irrespective of gender.” Victor Okunrintemi.