This is the first in a two-part series on the role of hospitalists in the changing landscape of health care. McPherson Hospital will soon begin offering hospitalist services. The second article will introduce this new physician to our community.
The physician specialty of hospitalist is gaining popularity in hospitals across the country.
The term hospitalist refers to a physician who specializes in the care of acutely ill patients admitted to hospitals.
According to the Society of Hospital Medicine, the number of hospitalists has grown significantly during the past decade. In 2003, 11,159 physicians in the U.S. identified themselves as hospitalists. In 2012, that number had grown to 34,799.
In essence, a family physician who chooses to utilize hospitalist services will transfer daily direct care of their patient to the hospitalist during their hospital stay. The hospitalist is accessible throughout the day to provide updates to both the patient and the family physician on test results and other care plan activities.
In general, hospitalists have keen knowledge of hospital operations, are familiar with hospital staff and have greater accessibility to patients through their consistent presence on the patient floors.
Most hospitalists are board-certified internal medicine physicians who have received the same education and training as other internal medicine physicians. The biggest difference is that hospitalists have chosen not to practice their specialty in a traditional clinic setting. They specialize in care in a hospital setting. They are equipped to care for inpatients with complex ailments and diseases.
And because of their close proximity to hospital ancillary services, such as lab and radiology, they are able to track test results and order necessary follow-up tests more promptly.
Knowledge of the patient’s medical history is vital to establishing an effective treatment plan.
Therefore, good, regular communication between the family physician and the hospitalist helps all staff provide the best of care while the patient is hospitalized. Electronic medical records also can improve the level of information available to the practicing hospitalist.
Benefits for patients under the care of hospitalists relate to quality of care. Recent studies have shown that quality of care is at least maintained if not improved with hospitalist programs, in some cases resulting in a decrease in mortality rates.
A hospitalist is more readily available and can focus only on those patients for whom he or she is caring, so better attention can be paid to getting the patient well. Further, a decrease in length of hospital stay has also shown to be attributed to hospitalist care.
Family physicians who utilize hospitalist services are able to spend more time in their offices and clinics. Their work day is more balanced in their clinics because the hospitalist can address patient care in the hospital, allowing the family physician to attend to patients who need their attention in the clinics.
Page 2 of 2 - Hospitals can benefit from hospitalist programs by reducing costs and the average length of stay for patients, thereby increasing efficiency and maintaining patient satisfaction.
Over the years, hospitalists have proven to be effective, essential members of a hospital’s care team for patients. By improving the efficiency of hospital operations, promoting patient safety and quality of care, caring for patients who do not have their own physician, and providing experienced leadership of the health care team, hospitalists are bringing tangible benefits to the health care environment. These trends are expected to continue as hospitals and physicians seek better and more efficient means of delivering care.