Patients' accurate identification of their hospitalist likely leads to increased satisfaction with the quality of care and better communication, especially during the discharge transition. A recent study found that 75% of patients on a teaching service were unable to identify any of their hospital physicians. Furthermore, 55% of palienIs were unclear as to the role the physician played in the care process. Very few studies have evaluated factors affecting the rate of physician identification. This observational study aimed to examine rates of identification and role of physician race in patient recognition of the attending hospitalist.


Enrollment information collected during a survey study measuring patient perceptions of hospitalists' communication provided study exclusion information related to identification of the assigned hospitalist. Eligible subjects were asked to identify the hospitalist by name and photograph, and were excluded from the study if they were unable to do so. Patients cared for by a total of 35 hospitalists were surveyed. The 35 hospitalists included 6 who were Asian, 3 African American, 14 white, and 12 South Asian. The proportion of recognition by patients was determined for each hospitalist. Analysis of variance was calculated to assess whether a hospitalist's race was related to recognizability by patients. Patient race was not recorded in the original study and could not be obtained.


In total, 24% of teaching service patients (70 of 291 eligible patients) and 4.6% of patients on the hospitalist direct care service (42 of 895 eligible patients) were unable to identify their hospitalist by name or photo regardless of race, a much higher rate of recognition compared to previous studies. Of the 1186 patients interviewed, there was not a relationship between physician race and a patient's ability to recognize her or his hospitalist; (P = 0.23).


On a direct care hospital medicine service, the vast majority of patients (95.4%), recognized a picture of their hospitalist. However, on the teaching service nearly 1 in 4 patients could not identify their hospitalist attending. This likely reflects potential confusion regarding the “team” (medical student, intern, resident, attending) caring for the patient and lack of role clarification. Future research should focus on steps to enhance patient identification of physicians (e.g., picture cards).

Author Disclosure:

A. Creden, none; D. Ferranti, none; V. Forth, none; K. O'Leary, none; M. Williams, none.