One out of four U.S. doctors is older than 65. The number of U.S. physicians ged 65 and odler has quadrupled since 1975 and now numbers 240,000. Therefore, the American Medical Association adopted a plan to help decide when it is time for aging senior physicians to hang up the stethoscope and retire.
The nation’s largest organization of doctors has agreed to spearhead an effort to create competency guidelines in order to assess whether older physicians remain able to provide safe and effective care for patients.
Unlike pilots, military personnel and a few other professions where mistakes can be deadly, doctors do not have a mandatory retirement age.
All doctors must meet state licensing requirements and some hospitals require age-based screening, but there currently is no national mandate or guideline on how to make sure older physicians are still capable to perform their jobs safely.
The AMA agrees that it is now time to change that. They have adopted a plan that is outlined in a report by one of its councils. In a vote without debate, the AMA agreed to convene groups to collaborate in developing preliminary assessment guidelines, as recommended in the report.
The report says testing should include an evaluation of physical and mental health and a review of doctors’ treatment of patients. However, the report does not specify who would do the assessing nor how often it would take place.
The AMA’s Council on Medical Education noted in the report that “physicians should be allowed to remain in practice as long as patient safety is not endangered.” Developing guidelines and standards for monitoring and assessing competency may diminish a call for mandatory retirement ages or imposition of guidelines by others.