The question of whether an older physician is better than a younger one has been debated for years. Older doctors bring years of experience, wisdom, consistency and predictability to their care. Yet younger doctors bring with them a knowledge of the latest, state of the art treatments, in addition to energy, willingness to please and enthusiasm for the profession.
Yet a study out of Harvard Medical School led by Dr. Anupam Jena attempted to answer the question. They reviewed Medicare data for 700,000 hospital admissions from 2011 to 2014 to scour for which physicians were deployed, their ages and what happened to the patients.
The findings published in the British Medical Journal were the following:
In the first 30 days of admission, if the patients were under the care of a….
- Physician under 40, mortality rate was 10.8 %
- Physician between 40 and 49, mortality rate was 11.1%
- Physician between 50 and 59, mortality rate was 11.3%
- Physician over 60, mortality rate was 12.1%
However an interesting finding was those physicians who saw large volumes of patients maintained stable mortality rates, meaning their skills did not diminish with age and large volumes of patients were “protective”.
Although the difference was ever so slight, it raises the question if younger physicians provide more quality of care or if older physicians fall victim to fatigue and burnout.
As a physician who trained and worked with doctors of all ages, I witnessed the older, seasoned ones brought wisdom and experience that couldn’t be taught in medical school while younger physicians brought to the table the latest study findings, industry guidelines, treatments and procedures. No patient seemed to suffer as a result of a provider’s young or older age.
The concern however many have is that medicine a generation ago was performed with the intellect and creativity of a physician who took care of you and your family for years. Recent politics, however, changed the medical landscape, emphasizing less healthcare spending, “watch and wait” and “follow the guidelines”. Medicine is an art and is many times based on instinct. And those individual physicians who execute it as such, despite their age, will provide the best care for their patients.
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Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician