A study out of the BMJ has concluded that patients who are treated by older physicians have higher thirty day mortality than younger doctors. Dr. Yusuke Tsugawa and others from the Harvard T.J. Chan School of Public Health evaluated 736,537 patients records in the U.S. that were managed by 18,854 different hospitalists. They found that while the thirty day readmission rates were the same, patients whose doctors were greater than sixty years old had an 11% higher thirty mortality than ones who were less than forty. This works out to one extra death for every 77 patients that were treated by older doctors.
When broken down by age categories, doctors aged less than forty had a 30 day mortality of 10.8%. Those between 40 and 49 were 11.1%. From 50 to 59 were 11.3%. And doctors 60 years or older had a mortality rate of 12.1%. However, when the researchers stratified by patient volume, doctors who took care of the highest number of patients, greater than two hundred per year, did not show any difference in mortality between age groups. They speculate that by treating larger numbers of patients, older doctors are more likely to keep up to date on best medical practices and current knowledge base.
Other articles have also pointed out that it is the older doctors who are most at need to recertify for their boards regularly since many haven't cracked open a textbook in decades. Yet they were given lifetime board certification while their younger colleagues are the ones who have to spend countless hours and thousands of dollars to keep theirs. Reads like a medical version of Wacky Wednesday.
If the name of the author of this study sounds familiar to you, that's because this is the same team that published the controversial paper last year that claimed female physicians are better doctors than men. Therefore for patients to have the best outcomes they should only be treated by doctors who are young, female, and attractive. Okay I added the attractive part but it makes sense if it will bring along more male patients, who are notorious for not seeking routine medical check ups, in to see their doctors. All you male premed students might as well forget about applying to medical school. You'll just wind up killing more patients than your female classmates.