Picking an experienced doctor may be an AIDS patient’s most important decision. A study conducted at Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound found that patients whose physicians rarely treat the disease die a year sooner.
“Our results support the hypothesis that practice makes perfect,” said Dr. Mari Kitahata of the University of Washington, who did the study.
The findings were first reported by The Associated Press when they were presented in January at a scientific conference in Washington. They were published in today’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
AIDS is a new disease and, compared with many others, quite rare, especially outside big cities. Many doctors have had little or no experience with it.
The research shows that being a physician’s first AIDS patient or even the second or third - is risky. These patients are more likely to miss important treatment that can forestall life-threatening problems.
Kitahata based her results on 403 men with AIDS who were treated at Group Health, a health maintenance organization in Washington state, between 1984 and 1994.
She found that the risk of dying on any particular day is one-third less for AIDS patients whose physicians have lots of AIDS experience than for those whose doctors are seeing AIDS for the first time.