Hospital patients are safe with substitute doctors

(Reuters Health) – Hospital patients’ survival rates don’t suffer when fill-in doctors substitute for the regular staff physicians, a U.S. study suggests.

Patients were no more likely to die within 30 days of arrival at the hospital when they were treated by so-called locum tenens physicians, who temporarily fill in for staff physicians, researchers found.

Hospital reliance on locum tenens physicians has surged in recent years, driven in part by regional physician shortages and by increasing demand for care by patients who have recently gained insurance.

Researchers examined data on more than 1.8 million Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized between 2009 and 2014 and found 8.8 percent of patients treated by locum tenens physicians died within 30 days of being admitted to the hospital, as did 8.7 percent of patients who had staff doctors. The difference was too small to rule out the possibility that it was due to chance.

“Our work indicates that locum tenens physicians caring for patients hospitalized for treatment of general medical conditions likely deliver equivalent quality care to non-locum tenens physicians,” said lead study author Dr. Daniel Blumenthal, of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

“While it is unlikely that patients would ever know whether or not their physician was a substitute physician, our work indicates that patients should not worry about whether or not their physician is a locum tenens,” Blumenthal said by email.

Locum tenens doctors generally do not have any previous relationship with their patients, are not familiar with the local community, and may never have worked with the hospital’s electronic health records system, hospital staff, or with the local network of facilities where patients may be discharged to after hospitalization, the researchers said.

Overall, about 38,000 patients in the study, or roughly 2 percent, were treated by locum tenens physicians, researchers report in JAMA.

Slightly more than 9 percent of all the general internists in the study had a locum tenens physician cover for them at some point.

Patients were hospitalized for a variety of reasons typically handled by general internists in hospitals such as pneumonia, kidney infections, lung disease, and gastrointestinal disorders.

There were no meaningful differences in patient characteristics, including reason for admission or other medical conditions, between those seen by staff doctors and substitute…

Read the full article from the Source…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *