New Study Shows You Might Get Better Care by Younger Physicians

Elderly hospital patients cared for by younger physicians have a slightly lower mortality rate than those cared for by older doctors. That’s according to a study published recently in the British Medical Journal. Patients with doctors under the age of 40 had a 30-day mortality rate of 10.8%. With doctors aged 40 to 49, mortality rates inched up to 11.1%, then to 11.3% with doctors 50 to 59, and 12.1% with doctors aged 60 or above.
The researchers studied more than 700,000 admitted patients age 65 or older, and 18,000 hospital physicians treating inpatients in the U.S. between 2011 and 2014. They put physicians into categories, and compared the youngest group with the oldest group. From the data, researchers found a clear rise in mortality rates as the age of the doctors increased. For doctors 60 years old or younger, every 10 years of increase in their age meant about a 3 percent increase in the patient mortality rate. Meanwhile, the paper said, a 2014 census of registered American physicians found that 26.3 percent of doctors in the U.S. are 60 years or older, with nine percent of those over 70. The researchers, however, were careful to note that the study was “observational” and that more detailed work needed to be done to confirm the results.
Lead author Yusuke Tsugawa, a research associate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health also said the findings “suggest that continuing medical education of physicians could be important and that continual assessment of outcomes might be useful.” “One thing I want to emphasize is that we don’t think as doctors get old that their quality gets worse,” Tsugawa told CBS News. “It is more likely that what we are observing is the differences in training they have received,” with younger doctors more likely to be familiar with the latest technology and techniques.
“Medical technologies are evolving all the time and it might be harder for older doctors to keep up with the evidence,” added Tsugawa, who also participated in a study that said the patients of female doctors were four percent less likely to die than those treated by men. “Newer doctors train based on the newest evidence and skills and technologies. Therefore, they may be more up-to-date when they start providing care.” & &

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