Are you looking for an older doctor with more experience or a younger doctor that is “up” on the latest technology? Two recent articles suggest conflicting answers to this question. This article in US News details a study that older doctors order fewer tests and keep healthcare costs lower, which means lower out-of-pocket costs for you, the patient.
Overall costs were about 13 percent higher for doctors with less than 10 years of experience compared to those with 40 or more years of experience. The first question that comes to mind is, how many doctors are practicing 40 or more years nowadays?! The study also noted that the lower cost of care by older doctors didn’t necessarily translate into better care at a lower cost.
At the same time, this French study from the British Medical Journal and a more recent study in the Annals of Surgery show that doctors hit their peak performance 10-15 years after completion of their training but after 20 years, performance deteriorates and complications increase.
Based on these articles, the cost of care is higher among doctors with fewer than 10 years of practice but if you go to an older doctor to save on out-of-pocket costs, you may have a greater risk of complications. Regardless, these articles both suggest there is a “sweet spot” wherein a doctor’s peak performance is between 10 and 20 years of practice. This seems to be a very narrow window for a doctor to be at the top of their game considering they have between 11 and 16 years of training after high school.
What should you do? First, ask friends and family if they have a doctor they recommend based on past experience with that doctor and second, don’t get surgery on July 1st from a doctor that finished their training the day before on June 30th! Other than that, uncertainty in healthcare is unavoidable.