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Eff Clin Pract. 2000 Jan-Feb;3(1):35-9.

Is hospitalism new? An analysis of medicare data from Washington State in 1994.

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Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Mich., USA.



Managed care, increased disease severity, and more complex treatment options may be reasons for the recent enthusiasm for "hospitalists"--physicians who specialize in the care of inpatients. It is not clear, however, whether hospitalism is a new model for caring for inpatients or merely a new description for previously existing practice patterns. PRACTICE PATTERNS EXAMINED: The proportion of physician visits occurring in the hospital before the introduction of the term hospitalists. Five specialties were examined: family/general practice, general internal medicine, cardiology, gastroenterology, and pulmonology.


1994 Medicare Part B claims data for beneficiaries 65 years of age and older who received all of their care in Washington State.


For the average family/general practitioner, 10% of all Medicare visits occurred in the hospital. Corresponding figures for the other specialties were 20% for general internists, 36% for cardiologists, 38% for gastroenterologists, and 45% for pulmonologists. A substantial number of physicians devoted most of their Medicare effort to inpatient care (i.e., hospital visits > 50% of total visits). If this definition were used as a proxy for hospitalism, 4% of family/general practitioners, 10% of general internists, 20% of gastroenterologists, 29% of cardiologists, and 37% of pulmonologists would have been considered hospitalists in Washington State during 1994. On the other hand, 35% of family/general practitioners, 18% of general internists, 7% of both gastroenterologists and pulmonologists, and 4% of cardiologists did not bill Medicare for any inpatient visits and could reasonably be categorized as "officists."


Physicians vary considerably in the proportion of their workload that occurs in the hospital or outpatient setting. Even before the term was coined, a considerable number of physicians were de facto "hospitalists."

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