If you have a serious medical problem, which doctor do you want treating you? An older, more experienced physician? Or a younger one with less experience?
Most of us would probably say the older doctor. Harvard researchers recently conducted a massive study to find out if older or younger physicians get better results.
Scientists at Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health followed 736,537 Medicare patients. They were all 65 or older. The subjects had medical conditions serious enough to require hospitalization. The study looked at mortality rates, readmissions, and cost of care.1
Surprisingly, the patients of younger doctors did significantly better. The study showed the older the doctor, the higher the mortality rate.
Doctors under 40 had a 30-day mortality rate of 10.8%. Those 40-49 had an 11.1% mortality rate. Doctors 50-59 had an 11.3% rate. For doctors over 60, the rate rose to 12.1%.2
The differences in percentages may seem small. But on an absolute basis, they are not. Of the over 700,000 patients treated, the difference between being treated by a young physician versus an older one was associated with more than 9,500 deaths.
Readmission rates did not vary with the age of the doctor. But cost of care was slightly higher for older physicians.
The study found one other factor besides age that significantly increased mortality rates: Doctors with more patients had higher mortality rates.
The study concluded: “Patients treated by older physicians had higher mortality than patients cared for by younger physicians, except those physicians treating high patient volumes.”
Researchers suggested older doctors might accumulate more skill and knowledge than younger ones. But recent medical school graduates may be more familiar with the latest medical technology and scientific knowledge, which may be more useful traits.
The study recently was published in The British Medical Journal.
Don’t Let Your Doctor Kill You
Of course, there are good and bad doctors of all ages. And no matter your physician’s age, you should check to make sure your practitioner is keeping up to date.
Don’t hesitate to ask if your doctor regularly attends professional conferences, is actively engaged in medical societies, and is familiar with new research.3
And if your doctor has a jam-packed waiting room and rushes you through appointments, it’s time to find another practitioner.
If you’re worried about the quality of the health care you’re getting, there’s something else you should know… If you’ve spent more than 20 minutes in a doctor’s waiting room recently… If you’re paying more for medicine, tests, procedures, and hospital stays than ever before…
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