Objective: Regionalization has been proposed as a method to improve outcomes for patients with critical illness. We sought to determine intensivist physician attitudes and potential barriers to the regionalization of adult critical care.
Design: Mail survey.
Setting: United States.
Subjects: Actively practicing physicians specializing in adult critical care, emergency medicine, or internal medicine listed in the 2008 American Medical Association Physician Masterfile (n = 1200).
Measurements and main results: There were 569 eligible respondents (effective response rate = 53.0%). Respondents were similar to nonrespondents. Fifty-nine percent of respondents thought their hospital would mainly receive patients under a regionalized system, and 30% thought their hospital would mainly send patients. Opinions were split about whether regionalization would improve overall patient survival (52% agreed) and healthcare efficiency (66% agreed). Specialists in anesthesiology and surgery-critical care, academic physicians, and physicians who perceived that they would mainly receive patients were more likely to believe that regionalization would improve outcomes and efficiency (p < 0.001). The most commonly endorsed barriers to regionalization were personal strain on patient's families (66% agreed), current lack of a strong central authority (64% agreed), and the potential to overwhelm capacity at large hospitals (55% agreed). Commonly endorsed strategies to implement regionalization included using objective criteria to determine eligibility for transfer (87% agreed), developing common information technology platforms across hospitals (86% agreed), and demonstrating in a clinical trial that regionalization is beneficial (81% agreed).
Conclusions: Intensivist physicians have mixed opinions about regionalization, with little consensus about whether regionalization will improve outcomes. Most felt that regionalization will improve patient outcomes, but many expressed concerns about unintended adverse consequences. Respondents identified several barriers and potential implementation strategies that can help policymakers design a regionalized system of critical care in the United States.