Younger Physicians Provide Higher-Quality Care Than Older Physicians, Analysis Finds
Previous research suggests that older doctors tend to provide lower-quality care than younger doctors who recently graduated from medical school, according to a "provocative" Harvard Medical School analysis in Tuesday's Annals of Internal Medicine, the Boston Globe reports.
Based on a review of 59 previous studies, researchers found that older age negatively affected performance in a wide range of areas, from following appropriate cancer-screening techniques to diagnosing depression. The 59 studies -- dating from 1966 -- factored in doctors' ages or years since medical school when measuring knowledge or quality of care.
For example, a 2000 American Board of Internal Medicine study included in the analysis found that heart attack patients were 10% more likely to die if their doctor was 20 years out of medical school compared with a recent graduate.
The Harvard study "is the most comprehensive look at the importance of age and years since medical school in determining physicians' skills," the Globe reports. Lead author Niteesh Choudhry said that part of the problem is that the philosophy of medicine has changed during the past 30 years, from a focus on personal experience in making medical decisions to today's greater reliance on evidence-based medicine and research in medical journals.
In addition, according to the Globe, "older doctors generally agreed that the rapid increase in new medical knowledge can be a challenge to keep pace with, especially as doctors already are pressed for time to see all their patients."
In an accompanying editorial, officials from the American College of Physicians and ABIM said doctors should be required to undergo a more rigorous re-certification process (Allen, Boston Globe, 2/15). The study is available online.