A study comparing the inpatient care provided by hospitalists with that of other internal-medicine physicians found that hospitalists discharged their patients an average of one day earlier and ordered an average of $917 less in hospital services for each patient in their care. The greatest savings was in the cost of nursing services, likely directly related to the shorter length of stay, according to researchers at the Veterans Affairs Iowa City Health Care System and the University of Iowa. The researchers analyzed 1,700 admissions to four general internal medicine services at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics during 2000 and 2001. One service was staffed entirely by hospitalists and three by nonhospitalist physicians in internal medicine. Patients cared for by the hospitalists had an average stay of 5.5 days compared with 6.5 for patients of nonhospitalist physicians. The study appears in the August issue of the American Journal of Managed Care.
A 10% overall reduction in hospital costs for hospitalists' patients was recorded, despite a higher average cost per day of $122, said Peter Kaboli, the study's lead author and a hospitalist. The results suggest that hospitalists may be more efficient in patient evaluation and treatment, allowing for earlier discharges, Kaboli said. The researchers also found a significant reduction in laboratory costs but no reduction in costs associated with radiology tests or pharmacy services. Read the study. -- by John Morrissey