Are male doctors better for male heart attack patients and female doctors better for female heart attack patients?

Brad Greenwood, Seth Carnahan, and Laura Huang write:

A large body of medical research suggests that women are less likely than men to survive traumatic health episodes like acute myocardial infarctions. In this work, we posit that these difficulties may be partially explained, or exacerbated, by the gender match between the patient and the physician. Findings suggest that gender concordance increases a patient’s probability of survival and that the effect is driven by increased mortality when male physicians treat female patients. . . .

I heard about this study from David Kane, who also pointed to this news report and offered his own critical comments.

I replied that I didn’t think the paper was so bad but I agreed with Kane’s concerns the data being observational.

Kane responded:

The problem is their claim that the assignment mechanism of patients to physicians is “quasirandom” when their own data demonstrates so clearly that it is not. More details:

I don’t have strong feelings on this one. I agree with Kane that the claims are speculative, and I agree with him that it would be better if the researchers would make their data public. It’s kind of frustrating when there’s a document with tons of supplementary analyses but no raw data. There’s a lot going on in this study—you should be able to learn a lot from N = 600,000 cases.

My summary

The big contributions of the researchers here are: (a) getting the dataset together, and (b) asking the question, comparing male and female doctors with male and female patients.

At this point, there are a lot of directions to go in the analysis, so I think the right thing to do is publish some summaries and preliminary estimates (which is what they did) and let the data be open to all. I don’t have any strong reason right now to disbelieve the claims in the published paper, but there’s really no need to stop here.