Background: Hospitals are increasingly adopting 24-hour intensivist physician staffing as a strategy to improve intensive care unit (ICU) outcomes. However, the degree to which nighttime intensivists are associated with improvements in the quality of ICU care is unknown.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study involving ICUs that participated in the Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation (APACHE) clinical information system from 2009 through 2010, linking a survey of ICU staffing practices with patient-level outcomes data from adult ICU admissions. Multivariate models were used to assess the relationship between nighttime intensivist staffing and in-hospital mortality among ICU patients, with adjustment for daytime intensivist staffing, severity of illness, and case mix. We conducted a confirmatory analysis in a second, population-based cohort of hospitals in Pennsylvania from which less detailed data were available.
Results: The analysis with the use of the APACHE database included 65,752 patients admitted to 49 ICUs in 25 hospitals. In ICUs with low-intensity daytime staffing, nighttime intensivist staffing was associated with a reduction in risk-adjusted in-hospital mortality (adjusted odds ratio for death, 0.62; P=0.04). Among ICUs with high-intensity daytime staffing, nighttime intensivist staffing conferred no benefit with respect to risk-adjusted in-hospital mortality (odds ratio, 1.08; P=0.78). In the verification cohort, there was a similar relationship among daytime staffing, nighttime staffing, and in-hospital mortality. The interaction between nighttime staffing and daytime staffing was not significant (P=0.18), yet the direction of the findings were similar to those in the APACHE cohort.
Conclusions: The addition of nighttime intensivist staffing to a low-intensity daytime staffing model was associated with reduced mortality. However, a reduction in mortality was not seen in ICUs with high-intensity daytime staffing. (Funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.).