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January 14, 2020

Best Practices in Assessing Aging Physicians for Professional Competency

Author Affiliations
  • 1David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles
  • 2Associate Editor, JAMA
JAMA. 2020;323(2):127-129. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.20249

The unprecedented number and proportion of aging physicians in the workforce in both the United States and the world is a unique challenge of the current medical era. Fully 43% of all US physicians are aged 55 years or older, including 61% of psychiatrists, 52% of radiologists, 46% of general surgeons, and 44% of internists.1 Moreover, approximately 15% of practicing US physicians are older than 65 years, tripling from 23 000 in 1980 to 73 000 in 2012-2016.2 Every year, 20 000 more US physicians turn 65 years of age, and, even though half retire by age 65, many continue practicing for years and decades more. Indeed, US policy makers are counting on these older physicians to do so to help mitigate the nation’s growing physician shortage. Currently, an estimated 50 million to 70 million US office visits and 11 million to 20 million hospitalizations each year are overseen by physicians older than 65 years.3,4