The lead author of a new report that says hospitalized Medicare patients are happier in facilities using a greater number of hospitalists didn't expect that would be the case.
The study, "Hospitalist Staffing and Patient Satisfaction in the National Medicare Population," which was recently published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, sprung from the theory that hospitals using a large number of hospitalists generally would rank lower in patient satisfaction than others. In part, the expectation was tied to the belief that patients might prefer to be seen by their primary-care physician (PCP) rather than a hospitalist.
"What we'd like people to take away is that in our study—and it's only one study—hospitals with higher levels of hospitalist care had modestly higher patient satisfaction scores, especially in the areas of discharge planning and overall satisfaction," says Lena Chen, MD, MS, clinical lecturer in the division of general medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "It suggests that there doesn't need to be a tradeoff between greater use of hospitalist services and patient satisfaction."
The retrospective cohort study looked at 2,843 acute-care hospitals and split them into groups ranked by the percentage of patients cared for by hospitalists. Those categorized as "nonhospitalist" hospitals had a median of 0% of general medicine patients cared for by hospitalists; a "mixed" hospital had a median of 39.5% of general medicine patients cared for by hospitalists; and a "hospitalist" hospital had a median of 76.5% cared for by hospitalists, according to the report. "Hospitalist" hospitals scored better (65.6%) on global measures of satisfaction than "mixed" (63.9%) or "nonhospitalist" (63.9%) hospitals (P<0.001), the study found. Hospitalist care was not associated with patient satisfaction in the areas of room cleanliness or communication with a physician.
Dr. Chen says she would like to see the research prompt more investigation into why hospitalist care is associated with patient satisfaction.
"We all want to have satisfied patients," she adds. "It would be important to have research that explores what the factors are that lead to greater patient satisfaction. This is a first step, but it's definitely not the end of the road."