The practice of an infectious diseases (ID) physician is evolving. A contemporary understanding of the frequency and variety of patients and syndromes seen by ID services has implications for training, service development and setting research priorities. We performed a 2-week prospective survey of formal ID physician activities related to direct inpatient care, encompassing 53 hospitals throughout Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, and documented 1722 inpatient interactions. Infections involving the skin and soft tissue, respiratory tract and bone/joints together accounted for 49% of all consultations. Suspected/confirmed pathogens were primarily bacterial (60%), rather than viral (6%), fungal (4%), mycobacterial (2%) or parasitic (1%). Staphylococcus aureus was implicated in 409 (24%) episodes, approximately four times more frequently than the next most common pathogen. The frequency of healthcare-related infections (35%), immunosuppression (21%), diabetes mellitus (19%), prosthesis-related infections (13%), multiresistant pathogens (13%) and non-infectious diagnoses (9%) was high, although consultation characteristics varied between geographical settings and hospital types. Our study highlights the diversity of inpatient-related ID activities and should direct future teaching and research. ID physicians’ ability to offer beneficial consultative advice requires broad understanding of, and ability to interact with, a wide range of referring specialities.