Blog | Monday, April 23, 2012

The danger of hospitalization

As an academic hospitalist, I see how the hospital affects patients. The hospital has become a necessary evil for those who are very sick. But too many patients virtually insist on staying in the hospital when a reasonable outpatient option becomes available, as described in this article in the New York Times.

Many older people fear that a hospital stay could leave them even more disabled than they were before. Unfortunately, there's new reason to believe this fear is justified. Elderly patients who are hospitalized are at much higher risk of cognitive problems afterward, according to a study published in the journal Neurology.

As a physician, I am often frustrated that older patients become confused in the hospital. The family wants me to do something, and all I can think of is discharge home to comforting surroundings.

So we are all caught between that rock and that hard place. We are stuck. But we must do all we can to either change hospitals or avoid hospitalizations as often as possible.

db is the nickname for Robert M. Centor, MD, FACP. db stands both for Dr. Bob and da boss. He is an academic general internist at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, and is the Associate Dean for the Huntsville Regional Medical Campus of UASOM. He also serves as a frequent ward attending at the Birmingham VA Hospital. This post originally appeared at his blog, db's Medical Rants.