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Hospital readmissions following physician call system change: a comparison of concentrated and distributed schedules


Background — Physician call schedules are a critical element for medical practice and hospital efficiency. We compared readmission rates before and after a change in physician call system at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Methods — We studied patients discharged over a decade (2004 through 2013) and identified whether or not each patient was readmitted within the subsequent 28 days. We excluded patients discharged for a surgical, obstetrical or psychiatric diagnosis. We used time-to-event analysis and time-series analysis to compare rates of readmission before and after the physician call system change (January 1, 2009).

Results — A total of 89,697 patients were discharged of whom 10,001 (11%) were subsequently readmitted and 4,280 died. The risk of readmission was increased by about 26% following physician call system change (9.7% vs 12.2%, p < 0.001). Time-series analysis confirmed a 26% increase in the readmission rate after call system change (95% confidence interval: 22% to 31%, p < 0.001). The increase in readmission rate after call system change persisted across patients with diverse ages, estimated readmission risks, and medical diagnoses. The net effect was equal to 7,240 additional patient-days in hospital following call system change. A modest increase was observed at a nearby acute care hospital that did not change physician call system and no increase in risk of death was observed with increased hospital readmissions.

Conclusion — We suggest that changes in physician call systems sometimes increase subsequent hospital readmission rates. Further reductions in readmissions may instead require additional resources or ingenuity.



Yarnell CJ, Shadowitz S, Redelmeier DA. Am J Med. 2016; 129(7):706-14.e2. Epub 2016 Mar 11.

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