Elderly hospital patients may be less likely to die prematurely or be readmitted for serious complications when they’re treated by female physicians, a U.S. study suggests.

With female doctors, patients had 4 percent lower odds of dying within a month after being admitted to the hospital and a 5 percent smaller chance of repeat hospitalizations within the first month after leaving the hospital, the study found.

“The difference in mortality rates surprised us,” said lead author Dr. Yusuke Tsugawa, a health policy researcher at Harvard University in Boston.

Previous studies have found differences in the way men and women practice medicine, Tsugawa added by email. For example, female physicians are more likely to adhere to clinical guidelines and focus more on communication and forging relationships with patients.

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