Background: The hospital admission decision directly influences the magnitude of resource use in patients with community-acquired pneumonia, yet little information exists on how medical practitioners make this decision.
Objectives: To determine which factors medical practitioners consider in making the hospital admission decision and which health care services they believe would allow ambulatory treatment of low-risk hospitalized patients with community-acquired pneumonia.
Methods: Medical practitioners responsible for the hospital admission decision for low-risk patients with community-acquired pneumonia were asked to describe patient characteristics at initial examination that influenced the hospitalization decision, and to identify the health care services that would have allowed initial outpatient treatment of hospitalized patients.
Results: A total of 292 medical practitioners completed questionnaires for 472 (76%) of the 624 low-risk patients eligible for this study. Although all patients had a predicted probability of death of less than 4%, practitioners estimated that 5% of outpatients and 41% of inpatients had an expected 30-day risk of death of more than 5%. Univariate analyses identified 3 practitioner-rated factors that were nearly universally associated with hospitalization: hypoxemia (odds ratio, 173.3; 95% confidence interval, 23.8-1265.0), inability to maintain oral intake (odds ratio, 53.3; 95% confidence interval, 12.8-222.5), and lack of patient home care support (odds ratio, 54.4; 95% confidence interval, 7.3-402.6). In patients without these 3 factors, logistic regression analysis demonstrated that practitioner-estimated risk of death of more than 5% had a strong independent association with hospitalization (odds ratio, 18.4; 95% confidence interval, 6.1-55.7). Practitioners identified home intravenous antibiotic therapy and home nursing observation as services that would have allowed outpatient treatment of more than half (68% and 59%, respectively) of the patients initially hospitalized for treatment.
Conclusions: Practitioners' survey responses suggest that the availability of outpatient intravenous antimicrobial therapy and home nursing care would allow outpatient care for a large proportion of low-risk patients who are hospitalized for community-acquired pneumonia. These data also suggest that methods to improve practitioners' identification of low-risk patients with community-acquired pneumonia could decrease the hospitalization of such patients. Future studies are required to help physicians identify which low-risk patients could safely be treated in the outpatient setting on the basis of clinical information readily available at presentation.