Home Patient Flow A look at patient encounters per shift

A look at patient encounters per shift

May 2014

Published in the May 2014 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

WHAT DO HOSPITALISTS THINK about the number of patients they see per shift? According to data from the 2013 Today’s Hospitalist Compensation & Career Survey, hospitalists report having just over 16 patient encounters per shift, a number that hasn’t moved significantly in the six years that we’ve conducted our survey. Given the fact that hospitalists identify 17 patient encounters a shift as a reasonable number, most hospitalists would seem to be satisfied with their patient volumes. Here’s a look at data from our most recent survey.

Encounters per shift
In our latest survey, hospitalists report having just over 16 patient encounters per shift. That number is higher for adult hospitalists (16.30 encounters per shift) than pediatric hospitalists (14.37).

The number of patient encounters per shift is highest for hospitalists at local hospitalist groups (17.56) and national hospitalist management companies (18.15). The number is lowest for hospitalists working for universities/medical schools (12.82).

Interestingly, the more shifts per month that hospitalists work, the more patient encounters they report per shift. Hospitalists who work one to nine shifts per month have 15.74 patient encounters per shift, while hospitalists working more than 20 shifts per month have 17.17 encounters per shift.

What’s reasonable?
When we asked hospitalists what number of encounters per shift was reasonable, the number that came back was 17.14. Pediatric hospitalists gave a slightly lower number (16).

Other differences emerged. Female hospitalists, for example, thought a smaller number was reasonable (16.22) than men (17.53). As for different employment models, doctors in local hospitalist groups reported the highest “reasonable” number of patient encounters per shift (18.29), while those at universities/medical schools reported the lowest (15.07).

And the more satisfied hospitalists are with their career, the more patient encounters they’re willing to have. Hospitalists who are very or extremely satisfied, for example, said 17.52 encounters per shift would be reasonable, compared to hospitalists who are somewhat or very unsatisfied. For that group, 15.74 encounters per shift would be reasonable.

While there may be minor disagreement about the reasonable number of patient encounters, more than half the hospitalists we surveyed thought that hospitalists would see a jump in patient encounters per shift over the next five years. About one-quarter, on the other hand, thought the number would stay the same.