Journal of Postgraduate Medicine
 Open access journal indexed with Index Medicus & EMBASE  
     Home | Subscribe | Feedback  

[Download PDF
Year : 2010  |  Volume : 56  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 17-20  

Appropriateness of gastrointestinal consultations for hospitalized patients in an academic medical center

M Cohen, Y Niv 
 Department of Gastroenterology, Rabin Medical Center, Beilinson Hospital, Tel Aviv University, Israel

Correspondence Address:
Y Niv
Department of Gastroenterology, Rabin Medical Center, Beilinson Hospital, Tel Aviv University


Background: Consultation of experts in the internal medicine or surgery subspecialties is needed in the hospitalized population according to decisions of the house staff. Sometimes the referrals are not justified, consuming time and money without a significant change in the patient outcome. Objectives: The aim of our retrospective study was to evaluate justification of consecutive referrals of hospitalized patients for gastroenterology consultation. Materials and Methods: Request for consultation was deemed not justified when at least one of the following parameters was found: No contribution to case management, discharge before consultation, cancellation at the last minute, and a recommendation for ambulatory management or surgery. Results: In August-September 2006, there were 232 requests for gastroenterology consultations. Of them 127 (54.7%) were men. The average age was 64.13±20.33 years. Ninety-four (40.2%) of the cases had been hospitalized because of other reasons than the consultation issue. Consultation was not justified in 60 patients (25.9%). Ambulatory management was a possibility in 151 cases (65.0%). Request for colonoscopy and gastrointestinal background disease were the only significant predictive factors for justification of consultation, P<0.0001 for both. Conclusions: In one fourth of the cases, gastroenterology consultation was not justified according to our strict criteria.

How to cite this article:
Cohen M, Niv Y. Appropriateness of gastrointestinal consultations for hospitalized patients in an academic medical center.J Postgrad Med 2010;56:17-20

How to cite this URL:
Cohen M, Niv Y. Appropriateness of gastrointestinal consultations for hospitalized patients in an academic medical center. J Postgrad Med [serial online] 2010 [cited 2022 Dec 6 ];56:17-20
Available from:

Full Text

Consultation of experts in the different medical fields is a cornerstone of hospital management. People who are hospitalized on an emergency or elective basis in the Internal Medicine or Surgical Departments are being treated by the house staff, mainly residents and fellows. Consultation of experts in the sub-professions of internal medicine or surgery is needed in part of the hospitalized population according to decisions of the house staff.

Little information in the literature exists to guide interactions among different medical specialists. Salerno and colleagues looked at physicians' opinions in regard to effective consultation. [1] They found that specialty-dependent differences exist in consult preferences of physicians. Scott and colleagues evaluated the quality of reply consultations of patients referred to clinics at a tertiary teaching hospital. [2] They looked at six parameters for quality assurance and found completeness in less than 60% of the cases. As an example, they found a proper assessment of patient understanding and adherence to therapy, in less than 15% of the consultation letters. [2] There is no study looking at the opposite angle of experts evaluating consultation requests.

Consultations are usually supplied by experts who are part of the hospital staff and organized according to the specific professions in other units (departments or divisions). Sometimes the burden of consultations for hospitalized patients is very heavy, especially in cases when consultations are added to routine daily work. In gastroenterology, consultations may be a part of a very busy day of endoscopy performance and outpatient clinic. The higher the consultation rate, the heavier is the workload on the consultants. Sometimes a consultation request is completely useless, since the patient refuses to undergo endoscopy, or the procedure could be performed on an outpatient basis.

Health systems and hospital functioning differ amongst various countries but the basics of patient care are very similar. The cost-effectiveness of consultation in hospitalized patients may be an important factor for using that tool in public hospitals. We believe that the more justified the consultation is, the more cost-effective is the patient management. Thus, the aim of this study was to evaluate justification for consecutive referrals of hospitalized patients for gastroenterology consultation.

 Materials and Methods

The study was carried out in a tertiary referral center affiliated to a university. The hospital has a hospitalization rate of 60,000 cases a year, and all the medical facilities are available. People are referred from the emergency room for hospitalization in the Internal Medicine department (six wards of general internal medicine, one ward for cardiology, and one ward for geriatrics) or in the Surgical Department (two wards of general surgery, and specific wards for urology, ear, nose and throat (ENT), neurosurgery, and transplantation).

When the house staff physician decides on consultation he sends a specific form to the relevant unit. Waiting time for consultation is no more than 24 h. The consultant examines the patient and writes his recommendation in the patient file. The house physician may, or may not, agree with the consultant or perform his recommendation. If the consultation included recommendation for an endoscopy procedure, this may be performed in-hospital, or stays as a recommendation in the release summary for the family physician to continue.

Request for consultation was deemed not justified when at least one of the following parameters were found: there was no contribution to the case management, patient discharged before the consultation act took place (less than 24 h from the request), consultation cancelled at the last minute usually when not approved by a senior physician, and there was a recommendation for ambulatory management or surgical examination. Request was considered as justified when none of the above existed, and at least one of the following parameters was found: a proper endoscopy procedure was asked, endoscopic or radiological procedure recommended, or there was a clear recommendation for management, change in treatment or operation. In addition, two other parameters were considered: the possibility of ambulatory management and the refusal of patients to undergo endoscopic procedure. These criteria were decided apriori by the authors. To our knowledge, no gold standard criteria for appropriate/justified and inappropriate/unjustified in-patient referrals have been published before.

Patients' demographic and clinical details were collected from the hospital files and consultation forms. Indication for consultation, endoscopy procedure request and background diseases were computed. When consultation was asked for any condition other than the reason for hospitalization, it was specifically marked.

Data management and analyses were done with SPSS software (Version 13, 2007). Chi-square test or Fisher's exact test was used to analyze statistically significant relationships in the distribution of categorical variables; t-test was used for comparison of averages. Proportions were used in univariate and multivariate analyses. A P value of [3] They demonstrated a significant increase in the consultation number over the study period when compared to total hospital admissions. Many of these consults came from the primary care clinic and required a procedure or simple treatment plan. Sometimes hospitalization is aimed only to shorten waiting times for specialists' consultations, and overcome shortage of health facilities in the community. [4],[5]

We believe that the routine activity of the department, which included outpatient clinic and endoscopic procedures, had no influence on consultations in the hospital wards. Our obligation was to perform the consultation within 24 h, irrespective of all other tasks. In addition to daily dedicated time for consultations, more activity performed at the same day afternoon.

The weaknesses of our study include the fact that it is a retrospective study, and the paper deals only with cases referred. We don't know how many cases were not referred who might have been appropriate, and there is no measure of outcomes. But, we believe that it could serve as the basis for an interventional study which would be of interest, and might have the ability to change practice.

We conclude that evaluation of hospitalized patients after gastroenterology consultation may be performed on an ambulatory basis in many cases. In 25% of the cases consultation was not justified according to our strict criteria.


1Salerno SM, Hurst FP, Halvorson S, Mercado DL. Principles of effective consultation: an update for the 21st-century consultant. Arch Intern Med 2007;167:271-5.
2Scott IA, Mitchell CA, Logan E. Audit of consultant physicians' reply letters for referrals to clinics in a tertiary teaching hospital. Intern Med J 2004;34:31-7.
3Ta K, Gardner GC. Evaluation of the activity of an academic rheumatology consults service over 10 years: using data to shape curriculum. J Rheumatol 2007;34:458-9.
4Knudtson ML, Beanlands R, Brophy JM, Higginson L, Munt B, Rottger J, et al. Treating the right patient at the right time: access to specialist consultation and non-invasive testing. Can J Cardiol 2006;22:819-24.
5Paterson WG, Depew WT, Pare P, Petrunia D, Switzer C, Veldhuyzen van Zanten SJ, et al. Canadian consensus on medically acceptable wait times for digestive health care. Can J Gastroenterol 2006;20:411-23.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022
 Site Map | Home | Contact Us | Feedback | Copyright  and disclaimer