Are older doctors at a higher risk for making mistakes?
Posted by Thomas Pettinicchi of D'Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC on Dec 11, 2012 in Doctor Errors
We have often heard statistics that suggest that younger, newer doctors may not be as experienced or focused as older doctors. Many patients who have to go to the hospital prefer an older doctor who has performed a procedure a higher number of times or has an established career of awards and accomplishments. However, it may be true that the older a physician or surgeon gets, the more he or she is at risk for making serious doctor errors.
There are a few reasons that the skills and abilities of some doctors in Connecticut may deteriorate significantly after a certain age, which can make them more unreliable in the operating rooms. Unlike other professions that involve a responsibility for human life, doctors are not evaluated throughout their career to ensure they are still able to perform job duties safely and responsibly.
This absence of periodic assessment may be very surprising to people who expect their doctor to be competent at any age. Doctors often have long careers in their chosen field, and many do not retire until after the age of 65.
There are some doctors who cannot or do not keep up with the rapidly changing medical technology, procedural guidelines and new information for the duration of their career, which can seriously affect their ability to treat patients in the best possible manner. Older doctors also may not be able to perform the same complex procedures they used to. And according to some studies, there may be as many as 8,000 doctors in the country who continue practicing medicine despite having full-blown dementia.
In order to remedy this potential problem, some hospitals are implementing periodic evaluations for doctors past a certain age. In many cases so far, the doctors have passed the test very easily. However, a handful of doctors were flagged as having potential health or cognitive issues that may affect their level of care.
When a patient is treated by a doctor who is uninformed, utilizes obsolete techniques or is suffering from memory loss or dementia, he or she can be seriously or fatally injured as a result of a doctor error.
Source: The Washington Post, "As doctors grow older, hospitals begin requiring them to prove they're still fit," Sandra G. Boodman, Dec. 10, 2012