What is a hospitalist? The term may sound foreign to most because the position is fairly new in healthcare. A hospitalist is a dedicated in-patient physician that works exclusively inside a hospital. A hospitalist does not have his or her own practice and does not see patients other than those that are admitted for a hospital stay.
The title hospitalist was coined in 1996. According to the State of Hospital Medicine survey, there are approximately 30,000 hospitalists practicing in the US, quickly becoming the newest trend in caring for patients. Some hospitals are also adopting a hospitalist nurse practitioner to help assist the hospitalist to further ensure the highest quality of care for inpatients.
The majority of hospitalists are physicians that hold a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic (DO) degree. As the field continues to grow, adjustments to the curriculum and training are being made to help provide the new physician with even more of the necessary skill sets to achieve the best clinical outcomes for patients.
With fewer and fewer medical students seeking the primary care focus and electing to specialize, it has become increasingly important to ease the burden of the primary care physicians. Implementing a hospitalist program helps to lighten the patient load, allowing physicians to have more availability in the office and providing greater care for inpatients.
Caring for Patients
Often, patients ask if they will be seen by their primary care physician when admitted. The answer is, that is possible, but not likely, especially as this trend evolves. Some physicians may choose to continue rounding in the hospital setting, but that is expected to diminish as more facilities adopt this specialty.
The reason more physicians will turn care of their inpatients over to a hospitalist is that the hospitalist will be involved with all aspects of a patient's hospital stay. He will work to coordinate all of a patient's medical care, including medical and surgical consultations, physical and occupational therapy, discharge planners, dietitians and even the hospital chaplain. The hospitalist will also order any necessary testing such as laboratory and x-ray exams.
With continuous availability, the hospitalist is also able to provide regular care updates to the patient and their family, as well as the primary care physician so that he or she can also monitor the patient's progress. The hospitalist is also more readily available to coordinate care quickly if there is a change in the patient's condition.
Because of the constant care, patients often experience shorter hospital stays, quicker access to a physician to answer questions and monitor progress.
Once a patient is discharged, the patient will return to his or her primary care physician for future healthcare related needs. Upon discharge, the hospitalist will speak with as well as send a report to the patient's primary care physician to ensure continuity of care in the future.
The primary care physician and hospitalist are not the only important members of a healthcare team. Nurses, aids, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, care managers as well as the ancillary department staff members all work to provide the highest quality of care for patients. Healthcare exemplifies the teamwork attitude and the role of the hospitalist only reinforces it more so.
Putnam County Hospital is pleased to welcome Dr. John Savage to the area. Dr. Savage began full time on May 2 as a hospitalist. Rachel Goss, Nurse Practitioner is also available along with Drs. Heavin, Kissel and Quiz, to assist in the caring of patients. For more information, please contact the hospital at 653-5121.