1. Carratala J, FernandezSabe N, Ortega L, et al. Outpatient care compared with hospitalization for community-acquired pneumonia: a randomized trial in low-risk patients. Ann Intern Med. 2005;142: 165-72.
The appropriate triage and management of patients with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) has important implications for patient outcomes and the allocation of health care resources. Despite the availability of validated risk stratification tools significant variability in clinical practice which results in hospitalization rates that are often inconsistent with the severity of illness. In this unblinded, randomized controlled trial, 224 patients with CAP and a low-risk pneumonia severity index (PSI) score between 51 and 90 (class II and III) were randomized to outpatient oral levofloxacin therapy versus inpatient sequential intravenous and oral levofloxacin therapy. Exclusion criteria included quinolone allergy or use within the previous 3 months, PaO2 < 60 mm Hg, complicated pleural effusion, lung abscess, metastatic infection, inability to maintain oral intake, and severe psychosocial problems precluding outpatient therapy. In an intention-to-treat analysis, the primary endpoints, of cure of pneumonia (resolution of signs, symptoms, and radiographic changes at 30 days), absence of adverse drug reactions, medical complications, or need for hospitalization at 30 days were achieved in 83.6% of outpatients and in 80.7% of hospitalized patients. For the secondary endpoint of patient satisfaction, 91.2% of outpatients versus 79.1% of hospitalized patients (p=.03) were satisfied, but there were no differences between groups with respect to the secondary endpoint of health-related quality of life. Mortality was similar between the 2 groups, and although the study was not sufficiently powered to address this outcome, and interestingly there was trend toward increased medical complications in the hospitalized patients.
Limitations of this study include lack of blinding by investigators and questions about whether the results can be generalized given the geographic variation in microbial susceptibility to quinolone antibiotics. As the authors suggest, this study also highlights limitations in the PSI scoring system, given that patients with clinical findings and comorbidities who would never be treated in the outpatient setting may in fact fall into low-risk PSI categories. These concerns notwithstanding, this study adds to our ability to identify an additional subset of patients with CAP who can be safely managed as outpatients.
2. Choudhry NK, Fletcher RH, Soumerai SB. Systematic review: the relationship between clinical experience and quality of health care.Ann Intern Med. 2005;142:260-73.
Early in the hospital medicine movement, when it was clear that hospitalists provided more efficient care than their colleagues, experience was cited as a reason for this difference. If, for example, a hospitalist cares for patients with community-acquired pneumonia daily, he or she is more likely to make the transition to oral antibiotics sooner, resulting in a shorter length of stay. Everyone recognized the hospitalists were younger, but is it plausible their “inexperience” explained the difference in care?
Choudhry and colleagues explored the available data surrounding clinical experience and quality of care delivered by physicians. They found few studies that specifically evaluated the effects of experience on quality of care. They did find articles that looked at quality of care and included experience or age as part of the physician characteristics
that possibly explained the differences. They reviewed 59 articles, available on MEDLINE, published since 1966. Forty-five studies found an inverse relationship between increasing experience and performance. For example, physicians more recently out of training programs were more familiar with evidence-based therapies for myocardial infarction and more familiar with NIH recommendations for treatment of breast cancer. Experienced physicians were less likely to screen for hypertension and more likely to prescribe inappropriate medications for elderly patients. This led them to the unexpected conclusion that experienced physicians may be at risk for providing lower-quality care and may need improvement interventions. An accompanying editorial by Drs. Weinberger, Duffy, and Cassel of the American Board of Internal Medicine stated, “The profession cannot ignore this striking finding and its implications: Practice does not make perfect, but it must be accompanied by ongoing active effort to maintain competence and quality of care.” They urged all physicians to “embrace the concepts behind maintenance of (board) certification.”