October 3, 2018

It doesn't matter where your doctor went to med school, study suggests

Daily Briefing

    Editor's note: This popular story from the Daily Briefing's archives was republished on Jan. 17, 2020.

    The ranking of a doctor's medical school has little to no relation to the provider's patient mortality and readmissions rates, according to a study published in The BMJ.

    Cheat sheet: How US News and World Report calculates their Best Hospital Rankings

    Study details

    For the study, researchers examined a random sample of over 996,000 Medicare beneficiary hospital admissions. The patients were all emergency hospital admissions treated by about 30,000 general internists.

    The researchers compared the physician's patients' outcomes data with U.S. News & World Report's primary care rankings, which list the top medical schools in the country. The researchers grouped medical schools in the top 50 by numerical ranking, in groups of 10. Schools that were unranked were put in a category together.

     No correlation between patient mortality and medical school ranking

    The researchers found no significant difference in patient mortality between those treated by physicians whose medical school was among U.S. News' 10 best and physicians whose medical school was unranked.

    Physicians' whose medical school was among U.S. News' 10 best had a slightly lower 30-day readmission rate, at 15.7%, than physicians' whose school was unranked. The rate among the latter group was 16.1%.

    The researchers wrote, "Overall, little or no relation was found between the USNWR ranking of the medical school from which a physician graduated and subsequent patient mortality or readmission rates."

    Health care spending was "slightly" lower among physicians from higher ranked medical school, the researchers wrote. Specifically, adjusted Medicare Part B spending was $1,029 among physicians from the higher ranked schools, compared with $1,066 among physicians from lower ranked schools (Knowles, Becker's Clinical Leadership & Infection Control, 9/26; Tsugawa et al., BMJ, 9/26).

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