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Trend: With 25% of US physicians aged 65+, hospitals test older doctors on mental and physical acuity

When Are Doc­tors Too Old to Prac­tice? (The Wall Street Jour­nal):

In Feb­ru­ary, Robert Brown received an email that left him trou­bled. The New Jer­sey hos­pi­tal where the 71-year-old pedi­a­tri­cian was prac­tic­ing informed him that doc­tors age 72 and old­er would have to take a test to assess their phys­i­cal and men­tal health—or risk los­ing their priv­i­leges…Con­cern over old­er physi­cians’ men­tal states—and whether it is safe for them to care for patients—has prompt­ed a num­ber of insti­tu­tions, from Stan­ford Health Care in Palo Alto, Calif., to Driscoll Children’s Hos­pi­tal in Cor­pus Christi, Texas, to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Vir­ginia Health Sys­tem, to adopt age-relat­ed physi­cian poli­cies in recent years. The goal is to spot prob­lems, in par­tic­u­lar signs of cog­ni­tive decline or demen­tia.

Now, as more insti­tu­tions like Coop­er embrace the mea­sures, they are roil­ing some old­er doc­tors and rais­ing ques­tions of fair­ness, sci­en­tif­ic validity—and ageism…Hospitals say they are try­ing to be sensitive…At Coop­er Uni­ver­si­ty Health Care, Antho­ny Maz­zarel­li, a physi­cian and senior exec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent, said the new pol­i­cy requir­ing the men­tal and phys­i­cal exams “wasn’t meant to tar­get physi­cians to not prac­tice. It was to help them prac­tice longer” by reas­sur­ing both the hos­pi­tal and the doc­tor.”

Relevant Study:

Physi­cian age and out­comes in elder­ly patients in hos­pi­tal in the US: obser­va­tion­al study (British Med­ical Jour­nal)

  • Objec­tives: To inves­ti­gate whether out­comes of patients who were admit­ted to hos­pi­tal dif­fer between those treat­ed by younger and old­er physi­cians.
  • Set­ting: US acute care hos­pi­tals.
  • Main out­come mea­sures: 30 day mor­tal­i­ty and read­mis­sions and costs of care.
  • Results: After adjust­ment for char­ac­ter­is­tics of patients and physi­cians and hos­pi­tal fixed effects (effec­tive­ly com­par­ing physi­cians with­in the same hos­pi­tal), patients’ adjust­ed 30 day mor­tal­i­ty rates were 10.8% for physi­cians aged <40…, 11.1% for physi­cians aged 40–49…, 11.3% for physi­cians aged 50–59…, and 12.1% for physi­cians aged ?60… Among physi­cians with a high vol­ume of patients, how­ev­er, there was no asso­ci­a­tion between physi­cian age and patient mor­tal­i­ty. Read­mis­sions did not vary with physi­cian age, while costs of care were slight­ly high­er among old­er physi­cians.
  • Con­clu­sions With­in the same hos­pi­tal, patients treat­ed by old­er physi­cians had high­er mor­tal­i­ty than patients cared for by younger physi­cians, except those physi­cians treat­ing high vol­umes of patients.

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