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Arch Intern Med. 2002 Mar 11;162(5):527-32.

Do subspecialists working outside of their specialty provide less efficient and lower-quality care to hospitalized patients than do primary care physicians?

Author information

  • 1Department of Health Services Research, Zynx Health, Inc, Cedars-Sinai Health System, 9100 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 655E, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, USA. weingarten@zynx.com

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Studies show that subspecialists can provide better quality care than primary care physicians when working within their subspecialty for patients with some medical conditions. However, many subspecialists care for patients outside of their chosen subspecialty. The present study compared the quality of care provided by subspecialists practicing outside of their specialty, general internists, and subspecialists practicing within their specialty.

METHODS:

The severity-adjusted mortality rate and the severity-adjusted length of stay were used as indexes of quality of care. Data from 5112 hospital admissions (301 different physicians) for community-acquired pneumonia, acute myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, or upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage at 6 hospitals in the greater Cleveland, Ohio, area were used in this study. The data were severity adjusted with the CHOICE Severity of Illness System.

RESULTS:

Subspecialists working outside of their subspecialty cared for 25% of hospitalized patients. When comparing patients cared for by subspecialists practicing outside of their subspecialty, severity-adjusted lengths of stay were longer for patients with congestive heart failure (23% longer; 95% confidence interval [CI], 15%-32%), upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage (22% longer; 95% CI, 7%-39%), and community-acquired pneumonia (14% longer; 95% CI, 5%-24%) than for patients cared for by subspecialists practicing within their subspecialty. Patients also had a slightly higher hospital mortality rate when cared for by subspecialists practicing outside of their specialty than by subspecialists practicing within their subspecialty (mortality rate odds ratio, 1.46; P =.047). In addition, patients cared for by subspecialists practicing outside of their subspecialty had longer lengths of stay, and prolongations of stay were observed for patients with congestive heart failure (16% longer; 95% CI, 8%-26%), upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage (15% longer; 95% CI, 2%-30%), and community-acquired pneumonia (18% longer; 95% CI, 9%-28%) than patients cared for by general internists.

CONCLUSIONS:

Subspecialists commonly care for patients outside of their subspecialty, despite the fact that their patients may have longer lengths of stay than those cared for by subspecialists practicing within their specialty or by general internists. In addition, such patients may have slightly higher mortality rates than those cared for by subspecialists practicing within their subspecialty.

PMID:
11871920
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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