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U.S. patient survival rates better with international doctors, study finds

Internationally trained doctors have slightly lower patient death rates than those trained in the U.S., a study published in The BMJ medical journal found.

The researchers, from several Boston-area institutions including Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said that based on their findings, current standards of selecting international medical graduates for practice in the U.S. "appear sufficiently rigorous to ensure high quality care."

Using data from a national sample of more than 1.2 million Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 or older, they found that patients treated by international graduates had an 11.2% risk of mortality in a 30-day period, compared to an 11.6% risk under U.S.-trained physicians' care.

According to the BMJ study, international medical graduates make up a quarter of the physician workforce in the U.S., U.K., Australia and Canada.

It is possible that the current approach for allowing international medical graduates to practice in the U.S. may select for better physicians on average, the researchers said. They also noted that international doctors treated slightly more chronic conditions on average.

The study was observational, and no conclusions about cause and effect can be drawn from it, the researchers said.