Background: Previous investigations of the effect of the hospitalist model on resource use and patient outcomes have focused on academic medical centers or have used short follow-up periods.
Objective: To determine the effects of hospitalist care on resource use and patient outcomes and whether these effects change over time.
Design: Retrospective cohort study.
Setting: Community-based, urban teaching hospital.
Patients: 5308 patients cared for by community or hospitalist physicians in the 2 years after implementation of a voluntary hospitalist service.
Measurements: Length of stay, costs, 10-day readmission rates, use of consultative services, in-hospital mortality rate, and mortality rate at 30 and 60 days.
Results: Patients of hospitalists were younger than those of community physicians (65 years vs. 74 years; P < 0.001) and were more likely to be of black than of white ethnicity (33.3% vs. 17.9%; P < 0.001), have Medicaid insurance (25.1% vs. 10.2%; P < 0.001), and receive intensive care (19.9% vs. 15.8%; P < 0.001). After adjustment in multivariable models, length of stay and costs were not different in the first year of the study. In year 2, patients of hospitalists had shorter stays (0.61 day shorter; P = 0.002) and lower costs ($822 lower; P = 0.002). Over the 2 years of this study, patients of hospitalists had lower risk for death in the hospital (adjusted relative hazard, 0.71 [95% CI, 0.54 to 0.93]) and at 30 and 60 days of follow-up.
Conclusions: A voluntary hospitalist service at a community-based teaching hospital produced reductions in length of stay and costs that became statistically significant in the second year of use. A mortality benefit extending beyond hospitalization was noted in both years. Future investigations are needed to understand the ways in which hospitalists increase clinical efficiency and appear to improve the quality of care.