There are more than 850,000 physicians in the United States. More than 56 percent are older than 55. Our Katie Gibas tells us what policies hospitals have in place to ensure patient safety amid a physician shortage.
UNITED STATES -- As the Affordable Care Act brings millions of new patients into the health care system, the challenge of the aging medical workforce will become even more of an issue. There are more than 850,000 physicians in the United States. More than 56 percent are over the age of 55.
10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day.
Dr. Sharon Brangman, the Upstate Medical University Geriatrics Division Chief said, "All of us age in unique ways, but in general, we start to have problems with our eyes and vision. Changes that might happen in your hands or upper extremities to arthritis, that can certainly impact what you do.”
According to the American Medical Association, nearly 29 percent of doctors are 65 and older.
Brangman said, "It's a very big concern because there's no mandatory retirement in medicine, like there might be for airline pilots.”
Dr. Todd Battaglia, an orthopedic surgeon added, "Some of the main surgeries I perform, we do a lot differently than we did even five or ten years ago. And I think that's the greatest risk, doctors who don't stay on top of their knowledge and continuing their certification process use outdated techniques that are no longer the best for the patient."
Most specialties require continuing education and recertification every ten years.
But even more important are the hospital credentials, which give doctors the authority to practice at that institution. Most hospitals re-credential doctors every two years. That usually requires continuing education, a written exam, and a physical.
Battaglia said, "There is likely to be a component in the future where the cases that you've done in your actually practice are reviewed by a board to make sure that your standards of care appear to be up to the national standards.”
Jerry Hoffman, the Onondaga County Medical Society Executive Vice President added, "Every hospital has review committees that when there is an adverse outcome in a surgery, that a committee of peers reviews that to see why that happened, is there something that the physician did or shouldn't do. "
Health experts say it will be crucial to be even stricter with the credentialing process as doctors age to ensure patient safety.
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