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Patients have lower healthcare costs with female surgeons, study finds  


Toronto, ON, November 29, 2023 – A new study suggests that patients treated by female surgeons have lower total healthcare costs than patients treated by male surgeons, across many different types of procedures. 

Published in JAMA Surgery, the population-based cohort study included over one million adult patients in Ontario, Canada, who were undergoing 25 common elective and emergency surgeries between 2007 and 2019. The health and demographics data were linked and analyzed at ICES. 

Prior studies have also found that patients treated by female physicians have better health outcomes than those treated by male physicians, including mortality, surgical complications, reoperations and readmission to hospital after the surgery.  

“It could be that managing potential complications following surgery will contribute to greater costs for male surgeons,” says lead author Dr. Christopher Wallis, an assistant professor in Temerty’s Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Surgery and urologic oncologist in the department of surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital. 

Costs for female surgeons were significantly lower at 30 days, 90 days, and one year following surgery compared to those treated by male surgeons. This corresponds to a relative cost difference of 10 percent. 

“These differences represent potentially large savings for the healthcare system,” says Dr. Angela Jerath, an associate professor in Temerty’s Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, and adjunct scientist at ICES. “We need further qualitative research to better understand behavioural and sociocultural factors that may underpin these cost differences.” 

“There’s also a need to improve recruitment and retention of female surgeons, as evidence shows dwindling numbers the higher up you go in surgical departments,” says Dr. Wallis. “Creating more equitable and inclusive working environments would contribute to greater diversity and could have a positive impact on the health of patients undergoing surgery. 

The study, “Surgeon sex and healthcare costs for patients undergoing common surgical procedures” was published in JAMA Surgery. 

ICES is an independent, non-profit research institute that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of healthcare issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting healthcare needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy. For the latest ICES news, follow us on X, formerly Twitter: @ICESOntario 


Misty Pratt
Senior Communications Associate, ICES
[email protected] 613-882-7065 


Contributing ICES Scientists

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