The impact of hospitalist discontinuity on hospital cost, readmissions, and patient satisfaction

Jonathan Turner, Luke Hansen, Keiki Hinami, Nicholas Christensen, Jie Peng, Jungwha Lee, Mark V. Williams, Kevin J. O'Leary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background: Achieving patient-physician continuity is difficult in the inpatient setting, where care must be provided continuously. Little is known about the impact of hospital physician discontinuity on outcomes. OBJECTIVE: To determine the association between hospital physician continuity and percentage change in median cost of hospitalization, 30-day readmission, and patient satisfaction with physician communication. DESIGN: Retrospective observational study using various multivariable models to adjust for patient characteristics. PARTICIPANTS: Patients admitted to a non-teaching hospitalist service in a large, academic, urban hospital between 6 July 2008 and 31 December 2011. MAIN MEASURES: We used two measures of continuity: the Number of Physicians Index (NPI), and the Usual Provider of Continuity (UPC) index. The NPI is the total number of unique physicians caring for a patient, while the UPC is calculated as the largest number of patient encounters with a single physician, divided by the total number of encounters. Outcome measures were percentage change in median cost of hospitalization, 30-day readmissions, and top box responses to satisfaction with physician communication. KEY RESULTS: Our analyses included data from 18,375 hospitalizations. Lower continuity was associated with modest increases in costs (range 0.9-12.6 % of median), with three of the four models used achieving statistical significance. Lower continuity was associated with lower odds of readmission (OR=0.95-0.98 across models), although only one of the models achieved statistical significance. Satisfaction with physician communication was lower, with less continuity across all models, but results were not statistically significant. CONCLUSIONS: Hospital physician discontinuity appears to be associated with modestly increased hospital costs. Hospital physicians may revise plans as they take over patient care responsibility from their colleagues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1004-1008
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of General Internal Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funders: This project was supported by an Excellence in Academic Medicine Award, administered by Northwestern Memorial Hospital.


  • continuity of care
  • health care costs
  • health services research
  • hospital medicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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