Background: Hallway medicine is an integral part of physicians' medical culture, but little is known about it.
Objective: To characterize the practice of hallway medicine among hospital physicians, both as providers and consumers.
Methods: We conducted a survey of 112 randomly chosen hospital physicians at the Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva, Israel between November 1997 and May 1998. A self-administered 39-item questionnaire was used that included sociodemographic data, the extent to which hallway medicine is practiced, and satisfaction from and attitudes to it.
Results: Of the 112 selected physicians, 111 responded (99.1%). Of these, 91 (82%) had been asked by their colleagues to provide hallway medicine. Most of them (91%) agreed because of "willingness to help," because "it's unpleasant to refuse," or "it's the acceptable thing to do." Most of the requests (72%) were unscheduled and time consuming (41% up to 10 minutes and 21% more than 20 minutes). Records were kept in only 36% of the cases and follow-up in 62%. Physicians who provided hallway medicine were also consumers of it (P < 0.001), based on personal acquaintance, time saved and easy accessibility. In general, the attitude to hallway medicine was negative (54%) or ambiguous (37%). Most requests for hallway medicine were made to Israeli-trained physicians, surgeons or gynecologists, and senior physicians.
Conclusions: Hallway medicine is practiced frequently among hospital physicians. A formal organization of health care service within medical centers might provide physicians with better medical care and reduce potential ethical, medical, legal, psychosocial and economic problems.