Hospitalist Medicine Program:
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is a Hospitalist?
Hospitalists are doctors whose primary professional focus is the general medical care of hospitalized patients. Hospital medicine is a specialty organized around a site of care (the hospital) rather than an organ (like cardiology), a disease (like oncology), or a patient’s age (like pediatrics). However, unlike medical specialists in the Emergency Department or Critical Care Units, Hospitalists help manage patients through the continuum of hospital care, often seeing patients in the ER, following them into the Critical Care Unit and organizing post-acute care.
2. When was the term “hospitalist” first used?
The term “hospitalist” was first coined in a 1996 New England Journal of Medicine article. Hundreds of hospitals, medical groups and managed care plans have adopted the hospitalist concept as “best practice” for high-quality, well-coordinated and cost-effective management of hospitalized patients.
3. How many hospitalists are practicing today?
It is estimated that there are between 10,000 and 12,000 practicing hospitalists today, with the number expected to jump to 30,000 in the next decade.
4. How has the healthcare industry accepted hospitalists?
The acceptance of hospital medicine was initially slow in some parts of the country but is now growing rapidly nationwide. Virtually all of the country’s leading hospitals - from the Mayo and Cleveland Clinics, Harvard’s Brigham and Beth Israel Hospitals and the hospitals of the Universities of California, Emory, Chicago, Pennsylvania and Michigan – have developed hospital medicine programs. Currently, most hospitals and medical groups are starting new program or growing their current hospital medicine groups as they try to address the challenges of inpatient care and patient safety while enhancing quality and service to patients.
5. How do patients perceive hospitalists?
For a number of reasons, many patients prefer hospitalists. First, since hospitalists practice on site in the hospital, they are present whenever the patient or family member has a question regarding care. Patients no longer need to wait until their physician makes rounds to get answers. Second, by being located in the hospital, hospitalists know how to expedite and improve care within the environment. They are familiar with all of the key individuals in the hospital, including medical and surgery consultants, discharge planners, clergy and others. Third, hospitalists can better facilitate connections with post-acute providers, such as home health care, skilled nursing care, specialized rehabilitation and others.
6. How do hospitalists contribute to patient care from a clinical standpoint?
Practice generally makes perfect in health care. The average U.S. primary care physician spends only 12 percent of his or her time with hospitalized patients. That means the typical primary care physician is unlikely to see any one condition requiring hospitalization more than three times per year (according to a study by the Advisory Board in Washington, D.C.). Hospitalists bring to patients an expertise in the application and coordination of care for common acute disorders that is far beyond what a traditional primary care physician would be able to provide. Because of this remarkably deep understanding of inpatient care, hospitalists are able to recognize and diagnose unusual disorders, anticipate problems and rapidly respond to crises or changes in a patient’s condition. Hospitalists also provide better continuity of care for the patient by improving the communication in “shift handoffs” between day and evening nursing, and coordinating what is sometimes as many as 50-100 people who involved in the care of a given patient.
7. Does the use of hospitalists save money?
Yes. Many studies show that hospitalists can reduce hospital lengths of stay by more than 30 percent and reduce hospital costs by up to 20 percent. Case studies compiled by The Advisory Board of Washington, D.C. demonstrate that hospitalists were successful in reducing lengths of stay and costs per case across every geographic region in the U.S. That is one of the reasons why hospitals, insurers and economic and quality forces are propelling the shift to hospitalists as a way to improve efficiency of care for hospitalized patients.
8. What value do hospitalists provide to the physician community?
Working with a hospitalist provides primary care physicians the ability to focus their attention on their office practices and better refine these needed outpatient skills, while at the same time knowing that their in-hospital patients are receiving the best care possible from specialists trained in that field. This is particularly important because hospitalized patients today are more acutely ill than in the past and require more complex treatments. Because of this, hospital medicine requires a decidedly different skill set than outpatient medicine – a skill set that hospitalists are particularly experienced and competent to handle.
9. When did Newton Medical Center establish its Hospital Medicine Program?
Newton Medical Center established its Hospital Medicine Program in 2004, recognizing the potential of using the program to improve hospital efficiency as well as patient care and service. Newton Medical Center is one of only a few New Jersey hospitals that have a hospitalist program in place.
To learn more about the Hospitalist Medicine Program at Newton Medical Center, please call (973) 579-8419.
NOTE: The FAQ were largely provided by the Society of Hospital Medicine.