New Study Suggests Part-time Physicians have Higher Mortality Rates

21 Sep, 2021 F.J. Thomas


Sarasota, FL ( – While previous studies have shown that timing potentially impacts outcomes and scheduling can result in higher costs, a recent study published this month in JAMA Internal Medicine might give a reason to also consider the physician’s employment status as well when scheduling patients.

A record number of physicians are leaving private practice, and many surveys show more time is being spent on administrative tasks, resulting in less time spent in patient care. Additionally, more physicians are taking on second jobs outside of their usual practice. In fact, some estimates suggest that nearly 1 in 5 physicians are working part time. One 2014 study showed that full-time hours were associated with better continuity of care, as well as better access. However, the researchers also found that with the increase in hours, patient satisfaction dropped.

As more physicians are working part time, researchers from the University of California and Harvard posed the question of whether patient outcomes were different for physicians employed full time as compared to part time, and set out to determine if there was an association between the number of clinical days a physician worked and patient mortality.

The researchers did a cross sectional analysis of 20 percent of Medicare patients over age 65 that were emergently admitted to the hospital between 2011 and 2016. The physician clinical days worked were cross-referenced to the 30-day patient mortality and readmission rates, with 30-day mortality as the primary outcome, and readmission as the secondary outcome. A total of 39,797 hospitalizations were reviewed that included 19,170 treating physicians with an average age of 41. Male physicians accounted for 61 percent of the treating physicians.

Overall, the researchers concluded the physicians that worked more clinical hours had lower mortality rates. However, the researchers found no correlation between readmission rates and clinical days worked.

The researchers speculated that there were several potential factors contributing to the increased mortality rate for part-time physicians. Keeping up with constantly changing clinical guidelines and medical practices when having less clinical time were cited as one potential factor. Additionally, the researchers felt that clinical skill may decline when physicians are seeing patients less frequently.

A lack of familiarity with nurses and administrative staff was cited as another potential factor for higher mortality rates. The researchers speculated that part-time physicians may not be as familiar with medical assistants and other staff, resulting in poor teamwork, which could potentially impact a patient’s outcome.

The ability to balance responsibilities was another potential factor that the researchers considered, along with skill level increasing with the drive to work more hours. 


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    About The Author

    • F.J. Thomas

      F.J. Thomas has worked in healthcare business for more than fifteen years in Tennessee. Her experience as a contract appeals analyst has given her an intimate grasp of the inner workings of both the provider and insurance world. Knowing first hand that the industry is constantly changing, she strives to find resources and information you can use.

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