A report by the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Council on Medical Education is calling for the development of guidelines and standards for monitoring and assessing physician professional competency based on age. Currently there is no national standard for assessing competency or quality performance in a physician’s area of practice or expertise and no mandatory retirement age.

The report estimates that there are 240,000 physicians aged ≥65 in the United States, which is about one-fourth of all doctors (although not all are currently practicing medicine). Challenges to the development of competency standards include limited valid tools for measurement and the variable nature of physician practices and cultural resistance to externally derived assessment approaches. Age-related changes in hearing, vision, memory, and memory skills could impact a physician’s competency, although there is no evidence directly connecting these changes to worse patient outcomes.

Should there be a mandatory retirement age for physicians?

The Council on Medical Education recommends that physicians should be allowed to remain in practice as long as patient safety is not endangered and that, if needed, remediation should be a supportive, ongoing and proactive process. It also encourages physicians to monitor their own competency, as well as that of their colleagues.