Many hospitalized older adults develop iatrogenic complications unrelated to their presenting diagnoses that can result in longer hospitalizations, functional impairment, or unanticipated medical or surgical interventions. These complications are often referred to as “hazards of hospitalization” and include delirium, malnutrition, urinary incontinence, pressure ulcers, depression, falls, restraint use, infection, functional decline, adverse drug effects, and death. The aims of this study were to assess house staff member awareness of older patients' risk factors for developing hazards of hospitalization and to determine areas in which interventions may help improve recognition.
A cross-sectional study was performed, from December 1, 1999, through August 31, 2002, of internal medicine and medicine or pediatric house staff members and their patients from 4 medical units at Mount Sinai Medical Center. Each house staff member completed a 23-item survey on 3 of their recently admitted patients. These patients and, if appropriate, their surrogates were interviewed by the study investigator within 2 hours of the completion of the house staff survey. House staff member responses are compared with those obtained by the study investigator. The completed house staff surveys were compared with the reference standard, and areas of agreement and disagreement were noted.
Eighty-six house staff teams, consisting of 1 intern and 1 resident (in either the second or third postgraduate year), and 105 patients were enrolled in the study. The house staff members were in frank disagreement or poor agreement with the reference standard in knowing the following: how well their patients were oriented to place or how long they had been hospitalized; patients' quality of sleep, presence of pain, history of falls, mood, quantity of food intake, and use of hearing aids, glasses, or an ambulation assistive device when at home; and the name of their patients' primary care physicians.
This study showed that internal medicine house staff members are not aware of many of their patients' risk factors for developing the hazards of hospitalization. Some of these deficits are glaring, particularly the lack of awareness of patients' orientation to place and time (duration of hospitalization), presence of pain, and the identity of their primary care physician. It will likely take education and cultural change to improve this performance. Such improvement could be accomplished as part of 3 of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education competencies: interpersonal communication, patient care, and systems-based practice. Such a process might improve not only house staff member awareness but also patient outcomes, since interdisciplinary communication and interventions are key to preventing the hazards of hospitalization.