Study: Chances of dying are greater if your doctor is over 60.

And, some advice for hedging your bets.

Researchers at Harvard scoured the records of 730,000 patients treated between 2011 and 2014 by more than 18,800 hospital-based internists (now called “hospitalists”).

The results were originally published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) and recapped in StudyFinds:

Patients are 1.3% more likely to die when treated by doctors over the age of 60, than if they’re treated by doctors under 40.

That translates to one additional death for every 77 patients under the care of a doctor over 60.


What’s going on?


The common explanation: Older doctors have the obvious benefit of experience. But, younger doctors are more current on medical research and technology … and, they have more physical stamina to handle the heavy patient-loads that are increasingly common these days.


Personal anecdote #1

We have a friend who was diagnosed with cancer.

Picked a gray haired doctor who was acclaimed by Washingtonian Magazine and practiced at a local hospital,

The results: Cancer wasn’t arrested and the friend eventually shifted to doctors at Johns Hopkins who stated bluntly: “We would have had more treatment options if you had come to us first.”

Apparently, older local doctor was a bit old-school regarding research and techniques.


Personal anecdote #2

A doctor friend of ours has always advocated going to a teaching hospital (think: Georgetown, Hopkins) for serious medical conditions.

We took his advice when Kathy was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Man, are we glad we did.

Her team of doctors (and nurse practitioners) ranged in age from 30 to 65 … several taught in GU’s med school … her surgeon and cardiologist were women in their 30s … her oncologist had plenty of gray hair … our point-person was a nurse practitioner in her early 30s … there was often a swarm of residents interacting with the docs – both taking notes and offering their point-of-view.

My point: Kathy had a mix of young and old docs who seemed to respect each other’s opinions and worked well together … keeping their patient in clear focus.

Today, Kathy is officially classified as a cancer survivor.


Lessons learned

It’s not a matter of old or young.

Some older docs keep pace; some young docs throttle down when they get their degrees.

The trick is forging a team that blends the experience of the young docs with the experience of the older ones.

You get that at most teaching hospitals.

So, get you tonsils out at the local hospital.

But take my friend’s advice: go to a teaching hospital for serious medical conditions.

And, oh yeah, don’t pick your doc based local magazine surveys ……



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