WHAT’S A REASONABLE NUMBER of patient encounters per shift, and how many do hospitalists actually have? According to our latest survey data, hospitalists who treat adults have just under 17 patient encounters per shift. By comparison, those hospitalists said they thought that just under 15 encounters per shift was reasonable.
Because those numbers represent a mean for all hospitalists, they vary based on factors like the type of practice. Here’s a look at what our survey found on patient volumes for hospitalists.
Actual vs. reasonable
On average, adult hospitalists report having 16.6 patient encounters per shift. That number is slightly higher—16.8—for nonacademic hospitalists and lower—15.1—for academic hospitalists.
As for what they think is reasonable, hospitalists said 14.8 patient encounters per shift. That means that on average, adult hospitalists are having just about two extra patient encounters per shift over what they think is reasonable, or 14% more encounters.
Adults vs. peds
The number of encounters trends lower for pediatric hospitalists. They report an average of 13.2 patient encounters per shift while they think 12.6 is reasonable. The numbers are also lower for nocturnists treating adults. With an average of 10.9 patient encounters per shift, they think that 9.8 is a reasonable number—an 11% difference.
Differences by employer
A big difference in patient volumes appears when you look at different types of hospitalist employers.
The gap between actual and reasonable is lowest among hospitalists working at primary care/multispecialty groups. While hospitalists in those groups say 13.7 patient encounters per shift is ideal, they report having 14.3. That’s a difference of only 0.6 encounters per shift.
But the difference between actual and reasonable is highest among hospitalists who work at national hospitalist management companies. While hospitalists in those groups say that 16.9 patient encounters per shift is ideal, they’re seeing 19.3. That’s on average 2.4 additional encounters per shift over what they think is reasonable, a 14% difference.
Differences by region
Hospitalists in the South and the Southwest report the highest number of patient encounters per shift with 17.8 and 17.2, respectively. The Pacific region clocks in with the lowest number: 15.0.
Impact on satisfaction
Hospitalists dissatisfied with their career report 17.6 encounters per shift. Hospitalists who say they’re satisfied or very satisfied have closer to 16 patient encounters per shift.
The bigger the hospital, the more patient encounters. At hospitals with under 100 beds, for example, hospitalists report an average of 15.1 patient encounters per shift. At hospitals with more than 500 beds, that number is 17.0, a 13% difference.
The general trend is that more experienced hospitalists have slightly fewer patient encounters per shift. Hospitalists with two years or less on the job ave 17.4; hospitalists with 20-plus years have 15.8.
For updated survey data, see results from Today’s Hospitalist’s 2023 Compensation and Career Survey.