Cognitively Impaired Physicians: How Do We Detect Them? How Do We Assist Them?

Anothai Soonsawat, Gen Tanaka, Marcia A. Lammando, Iqbal Ahmed, James M. Ellison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Our older physicians, an increasing number of those in practice, constitute a valuable human resource in the medical profession. Professional satisfaction, increasing life expectancy, concerns regarding financial security, and reluctance to retire are among the many reasons a physician might choose to extend practice into later adulthood. Despite the benefits of experience and expertise acquired by older physicians, cognitive changes associated with normal or pathological aging have been shown to have a significant negative effect on physician performance. Age-based cognitive assessment of physicians has been adopted in some countries and by some U.S. healthcare institutions for patient protection and improvement of physician quality of life, but there is no general guideline for the assessment and assistance of cognitively impaired late career physicians in the United States. Self-reports and reports from peers are an inadequate safeguard, leaving impaired physicians and their patients at risk. In this discussion, we will describe cognitive aging, the effects of cognitive aging on physician performance, some current monitoring systems, and recommendations for identifying and assisting physicians found to be impaired.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)631-640
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • Physician
  • cognitive
  • competence
  • deficit
  • impairment
  • quality improvement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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