Older is wiser, or so the saying goes. But senior author Bapu Jena, along with Alan Zaslavsky and Joseph Newhouse, find that older general internists have higher rates of mortality when compared with their younger counterparts.
Along with colleagues from HSPH, the researchers found over a percentage point difference between physicians 40 and younger and physicians 60 and older in terms of 30-day mortality.
This translates to one out of every 77 patients.
Patient data was cross-referenced with data from Doximity and the American Hospital Association to show performance by physician in the same hospital. The mortality rate increased regularly along with the increased age of the doctors studied.
However, for physicians that saw a lot of patients, there was no correlation—suggesting that keeping a full plate even in later years mitigated these potentially damaging effects.
In a related HMS press release, Jena said,
This difference is not merely statistically significant, but clinically important—it is comparable to the difference in death rates observed between patients at high risk for heart disease who are treated with proper heart medications and those who receive none. Older physicians bring invaluable richness of knowledge and depth of experience, yet their clinical skills may begin to lag behind over time. The results of our study suggest the critical importance of continuing medical education throughout a doctor’s entire career, regardless of age and experience.