Background: While prior studies have shown that public and private hospitals differ in their rates of suspicion and isolation of patients who are at risk for tuberculosis (TB), no study has investigated whether this variation is due to differences in the impact of patient case-mix on hospitals or to variations attributable to specific hospital practice patterns.
Objective: To investigate patient-level and hospital-level factors associated with delays in TB suspicion and isolation among inpatients with pulmonary TB disease.
Design: Retrospective cohort study of patients hospitalized with culture-positive pulmonary TB during 1996 to 1999.
Setting: Patients with culture-proven pulmonary TB treated at three public hospitals (765 patients) and seven not-for-profit private hospitals (172 patients) in Chicago, Los Angeles, and southern Florida that provided care for five or more patients with TB per year during the study period.
Measurements: Two-day rates (within 48 h from admission) of acid-fast bacilli (AFB) smear orders and 1-day rates (within 24 h from admission) of TB isolation.
Results: Two-day rates of ordering AFB smears were > 80% at three public and two private hospitals vs 65 to 75% at five private hospitals. One-day rates of TB isolation at the three public hospitals were 64%, 79%, and 86%, respectively, vs 39 to 58% at the seven private hospitals. Delays of > 2 days in ordering AFB smears were associated with patient-level factors: absence of cough (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 6.02; 95% confidence interval [CI], 3.82 to 9.52), cavitary lung lesion (AOR, 5.17; 95% CI, 1.98 to 13.50), night sweats (AOR, 3.38; 95% CI, 1.90 to 5.99), chills (AOR, 1.70; 95% CI, 1.01 to 2.88), and female gender (AOR, 1.66; 95% CI, 1.06 to 2.60). Delays of > 1 day in ordering pulmonary isolation were associated with patient-level factors: absence of cough (AOR, 3.40; 95% CI, 2.31 to 5.03), cavitary lung lesion (AOR, 2.66; 95% CI, 1.57 to 4.50), night sweats (AOR, 1.98; 95% CI, 1.35 to 2.92), and history of noninjecting drug use (AOR, 1.86; 95% CI, 1.16 to 2.99) and one hospital-level factor: receiving care at a nonpublic hospital. Even after adjustment for patient-level factors, TB patients at private hospitals were half as likely as those at public hospitals to be placed in pulmonary isolation (AOR, 0.47; 95% CI, 0.30 to 0.72), while odds of suspecting TB in these same patients were similar at both hospitals.
Conclusion: Private hospitals should order TB isolation for all patients for whom AFB smears are ordered, a policy that has been instituted previously at public hospitals in our study.