Are older doctors more dangerous than their younger colleagues?
Patients treated by older doctors have higher death rates than those cared for by younger physicians, new research has shown. The study, published by the BMJ, suggested fewer patients would die within 30 days of admission to US hospitals if treated by doctors under 40, instead of physicians aged 60 or over. However, researchers stressed the findings should be regarded as exploratory only and that further research was required.
Researchers, led by Yusuke Tsugawa at Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health in Boston, looked at 736,537 elderly Medicare patients from 2011 to 2014 under the care of 18,854 US hospital physicians. They analysed their records for 30-day mortality, readmissions and costs of care, and found – if the results are causal – that for every 77 patients treated by doctors over 60, one less patient would die within 30 days of admission if treated by a doctor under the age of 40.
The study found patients’ 30-day mortality rates were 10.8 per cent for physicians aged less than 40, 11.1 per cent for doctors aged between 40 and 49, 11.3 per cent for physicians aged between 50 and 59, and 12.1 per cent for doctors aged 60 or over.
However researchers found physicians with a high volume of patients broke the trend and did not have higher patient mortality rates, suggesting high volumes could be “protective” of clinical skills.
What are your views? Are older doctors more dangerous?