Does Practice Really Make Perfect For Doctors?

In his medical column for Pajamas Media, Dalrymple muses on the results of a recent study that shows that older doctors produce fewer complications for their patients:

Suppose it proved to be a general rule that every doctor is at his peak performance in his sixth decade? Will not every patient then want his or her doctor to be of that decade? It is obvious that such a desire could not possibly be complied with; and even if it could be, how would younger doctors get the experience to reach their peak in their sixth decade?

Of course, difference in age and experience is not the only cause of variation in doctors’ performance. Some are brilliant by natural ability, others less so. But the public does not necessarily react rationally when it learns of a statistical association.

Read it here

2 thoughts on “Does Practice Really Make Perfect For Doctors?

  1. Benjamin Rossen

    You cannot extrapolate from this study to all aspects of professional functioning as a medical practitioner. A far greater issue limiting professional competence is this: The magnitude of medical knowledge and diagnostic skill required to function flawlessly is far beyond the capacity of even the most talented physician. The majority of patients present with symptoms of rare conditions or with complicated interactions, so rare that a full time practitioner will see them one or two times in a life career, and a significant proportion of the conditions will not ever be seen by most practitioners. The application of the Bayesian principle tells us why; there are far more rare conditions and rare interactions than common ones. Practitioners tend to diagnose the familiar non-rare conditions when they encounter these patients. This effect gets worse with age. Up to 40% of initial diagnoses made by experienced doctors is mistaken. The more experienced doctors become more confident, while they become less competent. This is a real measurable effect, and the epidemiological finding is robust.

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  2. john malpas

    It would seem best if your GP was about 20 or so years younger thn you. So that he might well still be there for you as you age past 60 when things start to go wrong really.
    As for qualifications- well I regularly see GPs who have sat all sorts of exams – but what use to me. They are besotted with path tests but ignore my asthma , restless legs ,blepharitis etc.
    Well I am age 78 and dont expect much. I have been walking with the aid of a stick for 15 years. Nobody has ever asked why.
    And if you start talking too much you either get ‘refered’ or sent for a blood trest. By the way I am a retired GP

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