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Hospitalist Survey: Patient Loads Often At Unsafe Levels

Mon, 02/04/2013 - 9:40am
Alvin Tran

Nearly forty percent of hospital-based general practitioners who are responsible for overseeing patients’ care say they juggle unsafe patient workloads at least once a week, according to a study published Monday as a research letter in JAMA Internal Medicine.

In the study, researchers at Johns Hopkins University invited nearly 900 attending physicians, known as hospitalists, to complete an online survey that measured various characteristics, including the number of patients they thought they could manage safely during a typical shift.  Hospitalists are the physicians who coordinate a patient’s care and medications among various specialists while they’re in the hospital and oversee their transition home.

Among the 506 doctors who completed the survey, forty percent reported that their patient workloads exceeded levels they deemed safe at least once a month. Thirty-six percent said they exceeded their own notions of safe workloads more than once a week.  And nearly a quarter believe their workloads negatively affected patient outcomes by preventing full discussion of treatments.

“We know that with increased pressures from the health care system, with decreased reimbursement, present restrictions on work hours, and a focus on patient flow, that there is the concern that attending physician workload has increased,” said Dr. Henry Michtalik, an assistant professor of medicine and the study’s first author.

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