“Get me the best doctor you have!”
It’s a knee-jerk reaction to any health crisis, especially when you or a loved one are in the ER with a terrifying and potentially deadly heart problem.
You want the best and only the best — and certainly not some junior doc who’s just earned his white jacket.
Well, my friend, it’s time to take those instincts and give ’em a kick in the pants because it turns out the “best” isn’t always the best. And when it comes to a serious heart problem, the so-called “best” doctor in the hospital… the one with the most experience… could also be the one most likely to kill you!
A major study that examined data from tens of thousands of admissions from some of the nation’s leading hospitals finds that when senior top cardiologists were out of town, the death rate from conditions such as heart failure and cardiac arrest didn’t just drop by a little bit.
They absolutely plunged, falling by as much as a third when junior cardiologists were left in charge.
The study doesn’t show why the “best” are actually the worst, but I can take a stab at it.
Because they’re the “best,” they’re the movers and shakers — the key influencers who can get other docs to do as they say. And that means they’re also the docs most likely to be courted, recruited, bought and paid for by Big Pharma.
Many of the “best” end up so deep in the pockets of the drug and medical devices industry that they practically turn into salesmen.
They might be the best on paper, because of their years of research and experience. But they’re no longer the best in the ER — because the data from the study shows they’re much more likely to push aggressive treatments.
And that means they’re almost certainly going to push unnecessary treatments that can do more harm than good, including the ones they’re being paid to promote.
This doesn’t mean you should always choose a doc who’s still wet behind his ears, but it does mean you shouldn’t make assumptions based on a guy’s experience or title. And you shouldn’t ever blindly follow the advice of a “senior” doctor based simply on his years on the job.
Don’t be shy about questioning treatment choices and asking about alternatives and success rates. And make sure to appoint a medical advocate… a spouse or some other trusted loved one… who is willing to do the same for you when you can’t.