Nationwide, more than one-quarter of hospital-based general practitioners who take over for patients' primary care doctors to manage inpatient care say their average patient load exceeds safe levels multiple times per month, according to a new Johns Hopkins study published on Jan. 28, 2013, in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The research notes that health care systems anticipate an influx of new patients generated by the Affordable Care Act over the next few years; as restrictions on resident-physicians limit their duty hours; and as one in three physicians is expected to retire or otherwise leave medicine over the next 10 years, cumulatively resulting in increased patient care needs coupled with stressed staffing demands.
The study comprised a survey of 506 hospitalists across the United States. Twenty-two percent of the respondents reported ordering costly and potentially unnecessary tests, procedures or consults because they did not have time to properly assess patients assigned to their care. The average age of the participants was 38 years and more than half worked in community hospitals
Most physicians reported that they could safely see 15 patients in a shift if they could focus 100 percent on clinical matters. When the average actual workload was compared to the perceived safe workload, 40 percent of physicians exceeded their own reported safe level.
As Obamacare becomes fully implemented hospitals and physicians will face continually increasing patient loads and resulting litigation caused by the lack of time a physician has to spend with each patient and the resultant errors and potential deaths due to this increased patient to doctor ratio.
The doctors and hospitals may find themselves in the position of rejecting all Medicare and Medicaid patients in order to prevent litigation.
The study was reviewed at the Eureka Alert website the date of publication.