There has been growing concern within the medical industry that senior physicians can negatively impact patient care.
The American Medical Association (AMA) recently voted to acknowledge this possibility by unanimously adopting a plan to evaluate senior healthcare providers’ on-the-job effectiveness.
The plan is of particular interest to ophthalmologists, since the mean age of ophthalmic physicians is 54 years old, according to a 2013 American Academy of Ophthalmology membership survey.
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The AMA plan—proposed by the association’s Council on Medical Education—will give guidance to state medical boards about the maintenance of licensure process, and preliminary assessment recommendations will be developed.
Additionally, the plan emphasized that testing should include a review of the physician’s physical and mental health, as well as treatment of patients.
While some hospitals in the United States already require age-based screenings, there is no national policy to ensure older physicians are still practicing safely.
“Physicians should be allowed to remain in practice as long as patient safety is not endangered,” the AMA plan said. “Unfortunate outcomes may trigger an evaluation at any age, but perhaps periodic reevaluation after a certain age . . . when incidence of declines is known to increase, may be appropriate.”
Nevertheless, the AMA plan did note that no direct link between age and patient safety has been established. Further, the plan added that the move to create better guidelines could “head off a call for mandatory retirement ages or imposition of guidelines by others.”
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