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Transition From Home to Hospital Rarely Seamless
Date:4/21/2009

n't always possible in the current health-care setting. "From the physician and the health-system perspective, it's difficult to practice in an ideal fashion," she noted. She said fewer doctors are choosing to go into primary care and that reimbursement issues often limit physicians. Also, many medical centers have moved to a "hospitalist" model, where a doctor on staff at the hospital is in charge of a patient's care.

For the new study, Sharma and his colleagues reviewed a national sample of Medicare claims that included more than 3 million hospital admissions from 1996 through 2006. All of the participants were older than 66 years.

In 1996, the researchers found, 50.5 percent of people hospitalized were seen by at least one physician they had seen as an outpatient. By 2006, that number had dropped to 39.8 percent.

They also found that 44.3 percent of people who said they had a primary-care physician were seen by that doctor in a hospital in 1996. Ten years later, that percentage was down to 31.9 percent. People living in large metropolitan areas and those being seen in large teaching hospitals were the least likely to be seen by their primary care physician, according to the study.

Although people may assume their regular physician and the hospital doctors are in communication, Sharma said that's often not the case. "Post-discharge communication is very poor. It only occurs about 20 percent of the time," he said.

Both Sharma and Jacobs said the health-care system is shifting to the hospitalist model, and that electronic medical records would go a long way toward bridging the communication gap between outpatient and inpatient care.

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