A quick Friday afternoon roundup: whiney physicians, channeling Switzerland, demonizing the elderly

Here are 3 topics that caught my eye today:

First, a physician recruiting firm trumpets the news that 1 in 3 physicians plans to quit within 10 years. The physicians cite health care reform, “corporatization” of medicine and low compensation as factors. The finding is presented as a big deal, but to me it’s a yawner. It’s easy to tell a pollster you’re planning to quit because you don’t like the pay or working conditions. It’s quite another to deliver the same message to your boss and spouse, and even harder for most physicians to go out and find a high-paid gig outside of medicine. Plus, the poll gives no comparison data –maybe people in other professions are even more likely than doctors to quit.

The advent of managed care was a big turning point for physician autonomy. But many of the docs practicing now were already aware of managed care before they signed up for clinical practice. In any case they’ve had at least 20 years to get used to it. So I don’t see why this should all of a sudden become a big issue.

Second, a Washington Post op-ed by a health care investor points out that other countries –like Switzerland– spend a lot less than the US on health care and get a lot more bang for the buck (or fruit for the franc?). He encourages people to break away from the easy political posturing that has Republicans howling about death panels and Democrats pouncing on any Republican cutbacks in Medicare. I tend to agree with him that innovations in cost-cutting should be embraced.

Finally, a commentary in the USA Today repeats the usual ignorance about the dangers of older drivers. “Perhaps it’s only my imagination, but it seems that I’m increasingly hearing about older drivers who have lost control of their vehicle and crashed into other cars.” Her solution: “more uniform and regular testing of elderly drivers.”

I’m glad she at least recognizes that this may be her imagination –or more likely a fixation by youthful editors on any crashes involving the old. But as I’ve written (Putting the brakes on the Boston Globe’s demonization of elderly drivers), the facts are a little murkier than the perceptions. In short:

  • Despite all the press attention elderly drivers don’t crash a lot compared with other age groups
  • Elderly people in crashes are more likely to die –because they are old and frail, not because their crashes are more severe
  • The percentage of crashes involving elderly drivers is actually decreasing over time
  • There’s no evidence that road tests will really predict who will be involved in crashes
  • Seniors will be inconvenienced, embarrassed, and humiliated by the road tests. Since 90 percent pass anyway, is it reasonable to subject them all to this requirement?
July 27, 2012

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