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Study Shows That U.S. Patients Treated by Foreign-Educated Doctors Have Lower Mortality Rates

A recent study by the British Medical Journal reveals that hospitalized patients treated by medical professionals who graduated from schools outside the United States are likely to live longer than those treated by graduates from U.S. schools. The study was published on Thursday and calculated results over a 30 day period. (Read: How To Get the Most Out of Your Doctor's Visit)

While the timing of this study seems ironic, considering President Trump's 90-day immigration ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries, the BMJ told STAT News that it was merely a coincidence. In fact, researchers embarked on this project a year ago and submitted the results back in September.

Today, more than one-quarter of physicians and surgeons in the United States are from foreign countries and only 16 percent of all American civilians work in healthcare occupations. To put that into perspective, 44 percent of all healthcare professionals in the U.S. have graduated from foreign medical schools—the majority of them from China, Egypt, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Syria. (Read: Survey Reveals Where Highest Rated Doctor's in the U.S. Are)

Along with his colleagues, Dr. Ashish Jha of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health gathered data from 1.2 million hospital admitted patients. These patients were 65 or older and made a hospital visit between 2011 and 2015 to 44,227 doctors, nearly half of which were foreign graduates. The data concluded that 11.2 percent of Medicare patients treated by foreign doctors died within 30 days, compared with 11.6 percent of those catered to by U.S. graduates. In simpler terms, that's one fewer death per 250 patients treated by foreign-educated doctors.

This study is the first of its kind. While comparisons have been made for test scores and educational thresholds between U.S. and non-U.S. medical school graduates, nothing has ever compared real-life patient outcomes.

In part, researchers say that a lower mortality rate among patients of foreign graduates could be because of the rigorous testing they are required to go through before being able to practice here in America. While U.S. graduates complete one residency, foreign graduates have to complete two, one in their own country and then another here. The study states that this "intensive and prolonged training" might give them an added edge and experience.

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