Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Young Doctors Get More Patient Complaints

We could probably have deduced this one from experience. In a study published in JAMA Ophthalmology, researchers at Vanderbilt University have found that young physicians are much more likely to get complaints from patients than their older colleagues.

The retrospective paper looked at the experiences of 1342 ophthalmologists who practiced at Vanderbilt affiliated medical facilities. The ophthalmologists were grouped in cohorts of ten years of age, from 31-40 years old up to greater than 70 years old. Their records were reviewed from January 1, 2002 to December 31, 2015. The median age of the doctors was 47 years old.

The results showed that the two youngest cohorts were statistically more likely to hear complaints from their patients. The youngest group were 2.36 times more likely to get a complaint while the next youngest cohort had 1.73 times higher risk relative to their older physicians. The younger doctors also had patients who complained more quickly about their problems than the older ones.

The researchers conclude that their findings are consistent with the medical malpractice environment where physicians with less than 10 years of practice are more likely to get sued than their older partners. Their malpractice insurance cost the most until it tapers off when they hit their mid career years. The physicians halfway through their careers may feel social, professional, and family pressure to work harder and see more patients. This leads to greater risk of getting patient complaints. The late career physicians are the ones who survived the burnout and legal difficulties of their earlier years. These doctors have demonstrated the skills and composure to to survive in the medical field and thus should have the fewest patient complaints and lowest malpractice liability.

So for all you medical students and residents out there who see nothing but bleakness and despair for the foreseeable future. Yes it does get better, eventually. You'll just have to survive the first 20-30 years of medical practice then you're golden. Don't you feel better now?

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