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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
  • 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.

To learn more:

  • Solving the Brain Fitness Puzzle Is the Key to Self-Empowered Aging
  • Preparing Society for the Cognitive Age (Frontiers in Neuroscience article)
  • What are cognitive abilities and how to boost them?

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


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