New research says the older the doctor, the higher your chances of mortality, possibly.
In a study reported in the British Medical Journal, researchers looked at data from more than 700,000 hospital admissions of elderly patients that were in the care of 19,000 doctors between 2011 and 2014, and death rates increased with age of the physician.
Based on a 30-day mortality rate, doctors below 40 years old had a mortality rate of 10.8 percent. Doctors between the ages of 40 and 49 had a mortality rate of 11.1 percent, doctors between the ages of 50 to 59 had a mortality rate of 11.3 percent, and doctors age 60 or older had a mortality rate of 12.1 percent.
This pattern, it seems, is no coincidence. Key findings of the study were summarized by the authors:
"In a national sample of elderly Medicare beneficiaries admitted to hospital with medical conditions, we found that patients treated by older physicians had higher 30 day mortality than those cared for by younger physicians, despite similar patient characteristics... Taken together, our findings suggest that differences in practice patterns or process measures of quality between physicians with varying years of experience reported in previous studies might have a meaningful impact on patient outcomes."
It's to be noted these similarities weren't found in doctors with high caseloads.
"These associations were found among physicians with low and medium volumes of patients but not among those with high volumes," the authors wrote. "Readmission rates and costs of care did not meaningfully vary with physician age."
The study continues to note, however, the significance of keeping up with current practices in the medical field, which may explain the higher mortality rates for older doctors who may be stuck in practicing outdated care.
"The purpose of continuing medical education is to ensure that physicians provide high quality care over the course of their careers," the researchers noted. "Although continuing medical education can take multiple forms that vary across specialties and across countries, the issue of ensuring that physicians keep up with current standards of care is applicable across all specialties and countries."
Bottom line: Doctors should keep up with modern practices, no matter their age. It may, in fact, save a life.
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