Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 23, Issue 11, pp 1865–1870

Questionable Hospital Chart Documentation Practices by Physicians


    • UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
  • William J. Kostis
    • UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
    • Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Alan C. Wilson
    • UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
  • Nora M. Cosgrove
    • UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
  • Afton L. Hassett
    • UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
  • Abel E. Moreyra
    • UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
  • Cristine D. Delnevo
    • UMDNJ-School of Public Health
  • John B. Kostis
    • UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11606-008-0750-6

Cite this article as:
Sharma, R., Kostis, W.J., Wilson, A.C. et al. J GEN INTERN MED (2008) 23: 1865. doi:10.1007/s11606-008-0750-6



Physicians, influenced by various pressures, may document information in patient records that they did not personally observe.


To evaluate the hospital chart documentation practices of internists and internal medicine sub-specialists in the Northeastern United States.


An anonymous mail survey questionnaire.


One thousand one hundred twenty-six randomly selected internists and internal medicine sub-specialists.


Responses to questions describing their own hospital chart documentation practices, those they observed among their colleagues, and ratings of the importance of possible influences.


Response rate was 43%. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of physicians reported personally engaging in one or more of six questionable documentation scenarios. Forty percent (40%, CI; 37%-43%) indicated that they recorded laboratory notes in patient records based on information that they did not personally obtain, while 6% (CI; 5%-8%) admitted to writing notes on patients not personally seen or examined. The corresponding percentages reported for their colleagues were 52% (CI; 49%-56%) and 22% (CI; 20%-25%), respectively. Increased rates of documentation lapses were significantly associated with working directly with residents and/or fellows (OR = 1.71, CI; 1.30–2.25), younger age (OR for 10 year age decrease = 1.35, CI; 1.19–1.53), white race (OR = 1.47, CI; 1.08–2.00), and graduation from US medical schools (OR = 1.75, CI; 1.31–2.34).


Most physicians report having engaged in questionable hospital chart documentation. This practice is more common among physicians who are younger, working with house staff, and graduates of US medical schools.


survey researchhospital medicinemedical education-professionalism

Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2008