Lower mortality for patients treated by international doctors

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International medical graduates make up a quarter of the doctor workforce in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

At a time when many doctors are concerned about their current or future ability to work in the US, a new study has highlighted the positive impact international medical graduates working there are having on inpatient outcomes.

The study, published in the BMJ , found mortality rates are lower for US patients treated by internationally-trained graduates than for graduates from a US medical school, despite the fact that international graduates care for patients with higher rates of chronic conditions. For every 250 patients treated by US medical graduates, one patient’s life would be saved if the quality of care were equivalent between international graduates and US graduates.

Re-admission rates did not differ between the groups, but cost of care per admission was slightly higher for international medical graduates.

The authors suggest that one possible explanation for the findings is that the current approach for allowing international medical graduates to practice in the US may select for, on average, better doctors.
They say their findings “should reassure policymakers and the public” that the current approach to licensing international medical graduates in the US is sufficiently rigorous to ensure high-quality care.

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