Pts are admitted to the hospital when (1) they present the physician with a complex diagnostic challenge that cannot be safely or efficiently performed in the outpatient setting; or (2) they are acutely ill and require inpatient diagnostic tests, interventions, and treatments. The decision to admit a pt includes identifying the optimal clinical service (e.g., medicine, urology, neurology), the level of care (observation, general floor, telemetry, ICU), and necessary consultants. Admission should always be accompanied by clear communication with the pt and family, both to obtain information and to outline the anticipated events in the hospital. Pts often have multiple physicians, and based on the nature of the clinical problems, they should be contacted to procure relevant medical history and to assist with clinical care during or after admission. Electronic health records promise to facilitate the communication of medical information among physicians, hospitals, and other medical care providers.
The scope of illnesses cared for by internists is enormous. During a single day on a typical general medical service, it is not unusual for physicians, especially residents in training, to admit ten pts with ten different diagnoses affecting ten different organ systems. Given this diversity of disease, it is important to be systematic and consistent in the approach to any new admission.
Physicians are often concerned about making errors of commission. Examples would include prescribing an improper antibiotic for a pt with pneumonia or miscalculating the dose of heparin for a pt with new deep venous thrombosis (DVT). However, errors of omission are also common and can result in pts being denied life-saving interventions. Simple examples include: not checking a lipid panel for a pt with coronary heart disease, not prescribing an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor to a diabetic with documented albuminuria, or forgetting to give a pt with an osteoporotic hip fracture calcium, vitamin D, and an oral bisphosphonate.
Inpatient medicine typically focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of acute medical problems. However, most pts have multiple medical problems affecting different organ systems, and it is equally important to prevent nosocomial complications. Prevention of common hospital complications, such as DVT, peptic ulcers, line infections, falls, delirium, and pressure ulcers, is an important aspect of the care of all general medicine pts.
A consistent approach to the admission process helps to ensure comprehensive and clear orders that can be written and implemented in a timely manner. Several mnemonics serve as useful reminders when writing admission orders. A suggested checklist for admission orders is shown below; it includes several interventions targeted to prevent common nosocomial complications. Computerized order entry systems are also useful when designed to prompt structured sets of admission orders. However, these should not be used to the exclusion of orders tailored for the needs of an individual pt.
Checklist mnemonic: ADMIT VITALS AND PHYSICAL EXAM