Objective: Assessment of the distribution of tasks and consultations provided by the hospital epidemiologist (HE) at University Hospital of Zurich (UHZ).
Design: Prospective collection of data on hospital epidemiology consultations over a 3-year period (1995-1997). Time spent per consultation and activities of infection control practitioners were not recorded.
Setting: A 1,040-bed tertiary-care university hospital in Zurich, Switzerland.
Results: Between January 1, 1995, and December 31, 1997, the HE received 1,660 requests for consultation. Advice or action was sought in the following areas: epidemiology (27.5% of requests); quality assurance, including antibiotic utilization and technology assessment (24.8%); infection control and practice guidelines (22.5%); disinfection and sterilization (11.6%); clinical infectious diseases (13.4%). During 1997, 35% of epidemiology consults were related to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and 5.8% to tuberculosis. Public or private hospitals not affiliated with UHZ requested 40% of all consults.
Conclusions: This study shows that HEs are involved in many different activities. Only 27.5% of hospital epidemiology consultations were directly related to issues of epidemiology. Practical knowledge of the methodologies for continuous quality improvement and assessment of various new technologies is important for HEs. The results of this study may be useful in discussions between HEs and administrators about allocation of resources or issues of reimbursement.