Friday, May 19, 2017

Patients of older doctors may be at slightly more risk

When I consider a physician, I wonder: Will just out of medical school with fresh information be better? Or will long experience substitute for recent training if the doctor keeps up?

My father was a doctor--he got medical journals every month--but hardly ever looked at them that I could see. I am not saying my dad was a bad physician, just observing.

Doctors are required to undertake Continuing Medical Education--is this enough?

Harvard recently examined more than 700,000 Medicare patients of 19,000 doctors from 2011 to 2014 (Ars Technica).

They found that mortality rates rose with the age of the doctor.

--Doctors under 40--the mortality rates for elderly patients within the first 30 days (of what?) was 10.8%.

--Doctors 40-49, 11.1%

--50-59, 11.3%

--Above age 60, 12.1%

In real terms, this means one more death per 77 patients for a 60-year-old doctor, compared with a 40-yr-old one.

A little over one-fourth of US doctors are over 60 years of age. Nine percent are over 70.

The researchers said this did not mean as doctors get older, their quality of care slips--it probably means there is a difference in training from before and now.

Medical technologies are evolving all the time. It might be harder for older doctors to keep up, the investigators said.

Also a cautionary note--the study involved only older patients. Would this apply to a cross section?

Still--let's keep up the Continuing Medical Ed. And not just that provided by drug companies, either.

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