To the extent that you have a choice over the doctor you see at the hospital, you might do better to choose one who was trained overseas. That’s according to a large study of Medicare patients treated by doctors at hospitals around the country, which showed that foreign-trained doctors delivered slightly better results.
Although the study focused exclusively on doctors in certain situations, it’s possible that the results could also be reflected in the quality of care given by foreign-trained dentists, too.
Millions of Medicare Hospitalizations
Researchers from Harvard University and several surrounding hospitals looked at more than 1.2 million hospitalizations for Medicare patients around the country. These hospitalizations were handled by 44,000 general internists, including 20,000 who were trained at foreign medical schools. The result showed that foreign-trained internists had a small but statistically significant advantage in terms of patient mortality. Mortality among patients treated by foreign-trained internists was 11.2%, compared to 11.6% for US-trained doctors. After correcting for known risk factors and the types of cases handled, the advantage of seeing a foreign-trained doctor increased slightly, to about 5% lower mortality risk.
The difference was primarily seen for patients who came in with pneumonia and congestive heart failure. Foreign-trained doctors had lower mortality rates for all studied illnesses except for urinary tract infection though for other conditions, the difference wasn’t statistically significant.
Why the Lower Risk?
Of course, the immediate follow-up question is why foreign-trained doctors might do better. It’s important to note that this study isn’t capable of answering that question. But there are many potential explanations proposed by researchers and others.
It’s possible, for example, that only the best foreign-trained doctors have a chance to come to the US. These are the smartest and most accomplished doctors in their class, so of course they give marginally better results than the overall population of US-trained doctors.
Another possibility is that there are subtle differences between the patients seen by US doctors and those seen by foreign doctors that the study couldn’t account for. But it seems unlikely that any patient difference capable of making a statistically significant difference over 1.2 million patients would go unnoticed.
It’s also possible that the difference is one of attitude. The study found that foreign doctors’ patients were more likely to poor, nonwhite, and not have private insurance. Patients with these characteristics tend to be treated poorly by the US healthcare system, but foreign doctors may not have the same prejudices and may give these patients higher quality care.
A Foreign Trained Dentist
We know: this study didn’t look at the quality of care given by foreign-trained dentists, but it’s worthwhile to note that Dr. Nicolas Ravon has extensive training both at the Free University of Brussels and at the University of Southern California as well as several postgraduate education institutions. We believe that his unique background gives him a broader perspective on periodontal disease and helps him match patients with the best treatment options for them.