(Reuters Health)—Many outcomes for hospital patients—including how long they stay and their survival odds after they go home—may depend on whether or not they’re cared for by their primary care physician, a U.S. study suggests.
Researchers examined data on 560,651 admissions nationwide for patients covered by Medicare, the U.S. health program for the elderly and disabled, who had a variety of common medical problems. Their hospital care was overseen by either their primary care physician, a hospitalist, or another generalist.
Compared with patients seen by hospitalists, patients seen by their primary care physicians had more specialist consultations and longer hospital stays. But these patients were also more likely to be discharged home instead of a rehab or nursing facility, and they were also less likely to die within 30 days of leaving the hospital.
“It’s possible that primary care physicians aren’t willing to discharge until they feel like there’s a more ideal plan for home, and that hospitalists are discharging earlier, when people are medically stable, with the assumption that outpatient providers will work on further refining the care plan,” says lead study author Dr. Jennifer Stevens of Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.