Background: The work continuity of physicians in hospice and palliative medicine (HPM) has a great impact on the quality of care and practice experiences. However, nationwide studies providing a general overview of the work continuity of HPM physicians are scarce.
Methods: Data relating to inpatient HPM care provided from July 2000 to December 2013 were obtained from the National Health Insurance Research Database of Taiwan. Specifically, the numbers of hospitals, patients, patient hospitalization days, and physicians involving HPM in each year were calculated. The years of HPM work experience and total HPM workdays of each physician were also computed.
Results: Of the 40,965,153 inpatient records during the study, 121,258 (0.3%) records were related to inpatient HPM care, with 60 participating hospitals and 604 attending physicians. The annual number of HPM physicians increased with time from 77 in 2000 to 217 in 2013. The largest percentage (38.4%) of physicians practiced HPM for only one year, while only 23 (3.8%) physicians practiced HPM in each year without interruption. Of the 217 HPM physicians in 2013, 45 (20.7%) were newcomers, 78 (36.0%) had 1-4 years of prior HPM work experience, 54 (24.9%) had 5-9 years, and 40 (18.4%) had at least 10 years. Conclusions: Among HPM physicians in Taiwan, only a small percentage exhibited long-term dedication to the field, whereas most HPM physicians had short practice periods. More strategies are needed to improve work continuity among HPM physicians.