Interesting piece hit the virtual newsstand today in the medical journal Health Affairs (paid article access only) as well as the NY Times and every other news outlet in the US: in the US, care provided by foreign-born and foreign-trained doctors equals that of US-born/US-trained docs.

However, US-born and overseas-trained doctors fell short, particularly when they were treating heart disease. In the Health Affairs study, treatment by those docs meant longer hospital stays and a slightly higher death rate.

There’s a doctor shortage in the US, which has been filled by doctors who attended medical school in their home countries, and completed a residency here. Non-US doctors – Indian, Pakistani, eastern European, African, Latin American – have helped fill the doc-gap, and have faced some prejudice about their level of expertise and care.

Turns out the ones you have to worry about are the US-born doctors who – likely because of lower test scores and GPAs that kept them from being selected by US medical schools – should be the focus of whatever prejudice a patient might feel about who they want on their healthcare team.

When you select a doctor, what are your criteria? Are you turned off by an accent? Given the stats in the Health Affairs report, you should reconsider your prejudice. Mortality rates in the cases studied (6,113 patients with heart disease) gave foreign-born international graduates the edge: 5%. US born and trained: 5.5%. And US-born, overseas-trained? 5.8% mortality rate.

In raw numbers:

  • docs born & trained outside the US would have lost 306 patients of the 6,113
  • docs born & trained here would have lost 338 of the 6,113
  • docs born here & trained overseas would have lost 355 of the 6,113

I think that maybe an accent could be a good thing.

If you would have trouble trusting a doctor with an accent, start examining your reasons why. And make sure you ask your doctor(s) where they trained, even if they don’t have an accent.

If they were born in Paducah and trained in Peshawar, caveat emptor.

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Think All Docs Are Created Equal? Think Again.
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