, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 655-659

Can the experienced ICU physician predict ICU length of stay and outcome better than less experienced colleagues?

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Abstract

Objective

To assess the ability of physicians with varying degrees of experience to predict the length of stay and outcome of intensive care unit (ICU) patients.

Design

Prospective, interview-based study.

Setting

A 31-bed mixed medical-surgical ICU.

Patients

A total of 223 consecutive patients (excluding those admitted for routine post-operative surveillance) admitted to the ICU.

Interventions

None.

Measurements and main results

Physicians immediately responsible for each patient, and others fully aware of the case, were interviewed separately during the first 12 h of ICU admission to determine their assessment of the patient’s likely duration of stay on the ICU and the probable outcome. Degree of predictive accuracy was assessed using the Kappa statistic with kappa ≤0.2 poor, 0.21–0.4 fair, 0.41–0.60 moderate, 0.61–0.8 good, and 0.81–1.0 very good. Physicians were graded according to their degree of experience as junior (less than 1 year ICU experience), medium (critical care fellow), and senior (staff physician with supervising functions). For lengths of stay less than 5 days, senior physicians were better predictors than less experienced doctors. For outcome prediction, physicians were generally moderately good at predicting death, with senior physicians tending to be more accurate than their less experienced colleagues (senior kappa 0.68, medium kappa 0.52, junior kappa 0.43).

Conclusions

Prediction of length of ICU stay was poor amongst all physicians in patients with a length of stay greater than 5 days. Experienced physicians were better predictors of ICU lengths of stay less than 5 days and, in contrast to some reports, of ICU outcome than their more inexperienced counterparts.