Patients More Prone to Complain About Younger Doctors

From Drugs.com - November 30, 2017

Patients More Prone to Complain About Younger Doctors

THURSDAY, Nov. 30, 2017 -- Patients apparently are more likely to complain about younger doctors. Case in point: ophthalmologists.

A new study of more than 1,300 ophthalmologists at Vanderbilt University in Nashville found that as the age of these doctors increased, patient complaints decreased.

"In a time where increasing attention is being paid to aging physicians and mandatory screening for cognitive impairment, the patient's voice can be a powerful tool for understanding performance," said the study's lead researcher, Dr. William Cooper. He's a professor of pediatrics and health policy at Vanderbilt's School of Medicine.

"Therefore, if a physician suddenly has a change and increase in the frequency of patient complaints against a backdrop of colleagues who typically have fewer complaints, then that person may warrant further evaluation," Cooper said.

The study could not pinpoint why patients complain more about younger doctors, Cooper noted.

However, ophthalmologist Dr. Michael Repka has ideas as to why older doctors receive fewer complaints.

With age, he said, comes experience that helps doctors interact better with their patients. Repka is a professor of ophthalmology with Johns Hopkins Medicine, and vice chair of clinical practice at the Wilmer Eye Institute in Baltimore.

"Less experience means that you might say things that you wish you did not say, as you knew not to say 10 years later," he said, adding that people learn from their errors.

Also, patients might see older doctors as more experienced and knowledgeable, and thus are less likely to complain about them, said Repka, who was not involved with the study.

A doctor's ability to manage patients does get better with age, he said, but younger doctors might have an edge when it comes to current medical practices.

Still, Repka said, all doctors -- regardless of age and in all areas of medicine -- get complaints. "I do not think this is particular to ophthalmology," he said.


Continue reading at Drugs.com »