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Does fixing a retirement age for physicians help improve the healthcare system?

The medical profession is different from most others in one vital aspect: Practitioners of this profession don’t retire. The profession allows the physician to continue for as long as her physical and mental faculties allow her to. The US’ Supreme Court judges too, don’t retire, but theirs is judicial service, during which they are paid by the government, while a physician practices on her own.

This practice is built into the profession for many decades, and is one of the factors that motivate people to choose this profession. However, the medical profession needs to consider the consequences of this practice on the healthcare industry. Keeping this in mind, the American Medical Association, in a report released in early 2016, sought to develop guidelines for governing the efficiency of older physicians by introducing a screening procedure to test their competency in providing optimal, high quality healthcare.

The AMA considers this topic to be important because the number of physicians aged over 65 has leapt by more than four times in the past four decades. An astonishingly high percentage -25% of all physicians in the US - are aged over 65. 

Well-founded reasons

The AMA  lists the gradual loss of mental faculties such as judgment, hearing, sight and other related issues as being the cause for concern when physicians are allowed to practice beyond a ripe age, an age at which most other professionals such as pilots and military staff, whose decisions affect human lives directly, retire.

Expectedly, the reactions from the medical profession to the suggestions made in this report –one of over 250 on this topic by the AMA over the years –have been mixed. Some in the medical profession feel they are unnecessarily being fettered and asked to cast away a hard earned privilege, while others are more amiable to the idea of fixing a retirement age for physicians.

Causes for concern

From a healthcare industry perspective, some of the questions that come up with allowing a medical practitioner to continue to serve in the profession without retiring are:

  • Do physicians have the ability to serve their professions well when they enter old age?
  • How efficient and nimble can an aging physician community be in ensuring patient safety, and in filling shortage in the profession it serves, at the same time?
  • Should a retirement age be fixed for physicians?
  • Is it alright for medical staffs and hospitals to place restrictions on physicians based on age, and should hospitals and medical staffs do this?
  • If physicians perceive that they are victims of discrimination and civil rights violations; can they sue?

Getting the right perspective of the issue

MentorHealth, a leading provider of professional trainings for the healthcare industry, will seek to analyze and answer these questions at a webinar that it is organizing. The speaker at this webinar is Elizabeth A. Snelson, who represents medical staffs across the country, focusing on medical staff bylaws, and works for medical societies on medical staff issues.

Interested in going in-depth into this vital question? Want to understand how aging physicians improve or undermine your healthcare service? In order to understand these and related questions, please register for this webinar.

Elizabeth will cover the following areas at this webinar:

  • Age Restrictions on Medical Staff membership and clinical privileges
  • State Laws affecting physician age restrictions
  • Federal laws affecting physician age restrictions
  • Accreditation requirements related to age-based credentialing
  • Implementation of age-based screening
  • Eligibility for peer review protection

Important personnel in the healthcare industry, such as Medical Staff President/Chief of Staff, those in Bylaws Committees or Credentialing Committees, Chief Medical Officer, Vice President of Medical Affairs,    Chief of Staff, Director of Medical Staff, Medical Staff Attorney, Hospital Counsel, Medical Staff Manager, Credentialing Specialist and Human Resources professionals; will gain important value and learning from this webinar.

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