PUBLISHED: 4:34 PM on Wednesday, November 8, 2006
Patients bring up various reasons to choose doctors

Courtesy photo
  Lots of people feel safer with an older doctor, but he might not always be better and more knowledgeable.
Today, insurance companies typically whittle down the list of doctors we can use to only a few decent candidates.

Of those, some aren't accepting patients. Another might have inconvenient office hours.

In the end, you may only get a few doctors to choose from.

So you go with your gut and pick the doctor whom your gut tells you will take care of you best. But following your gut may not always be the healthiest bet.

Lots of people feel safer with an older doctor. But is an older doctor always better and more knowledgeable?

Not according to research led by a team at the University of Michigan Health System, which showed that surgeons over the age of 60 had higher patient death rates than surgeons age 41 to 60 in certain procedures, such as coronary artery bypass, lung surgery and aortic valve replacement.

All of the 236 patients in the study were over the age of 65.

The research, which was published in September's Annals of Surgery, also showed that surgeons under the age of 40 had comparable patient death rates to surgeons between the age of 41 and 50.

Another study showed that people want a doctor they can talk to easily.

Many patients value a good communicator over a technically proficient doctor - even if it means a lower level of care, a study published last May in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed.

According to the study, which sampled 236 patients, those who rated their care as very good were the same patients who rated their physician's level of communication to be very good. But according to medical records, those patients didn't always receive the best care.

The study concluded that a patient's rating of the care he received didn't accurately portray the actual technical quality of the medical treatment.