Home From The Editor Hospitalist programs: a new bottom line in American medicine?

Hospitalist programs: a new bottom line in American medicine?

April 2007

Published in the April 2007 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

Hospital medicine has come a long way in its relatively short history, a trend that’s underscored in several articles in this month’s issue.

A good example is our story on rural medicine, which finds that increasingly in small towns throughout the country, hospitalists are being viewed as saviors of sorts. Rural communities have discovered that many of the internists and family physicians they’re trying to recruit are simply not interested in caring for patients in the hospital. Once hospitalist programs are put in place, however, primary care physicians and even subspecialists are instantly more interested in building a local practice.

Outside of the heartland, the hospital medicine model is helping address another workforce problem: the shortage of specialty physicians who are willing to take call or to care for unassigned patients at their local hospitals. This is a real problem for hospitals, some of which are reportedly paying exorbitant stipends to subspecialists for call coverage.

Our article highlights another approach that some hospitals are opting for instead: hiring surgeons, psychiatrists and hepatologists to work as hospitalists, covering unassigned patients who need specialty care.

These articles show just how far the hospitalist model has come in its 10-plus-year history. What I find particularly impressive is how the specialty has transformed itself in the eyes of hospital administrators.

It wasn’t so long ago, after all, that many hospitals prized hospitalists for their ability to shorten length of stay and reduce costs. Now a number of hospitals are turning to hospitalists not so much to control costs, but to address issues that are even more basic to their long-term ability to continue to provide care.

For the hospital industry, that’s a new type of bottom line, and an acknowledgement that hospitalists may be the glue that is needed to hold inpatient “and even outpatient “care together.

Edward Doyle
Editor and Publisher
edoyle@todayshospitalist.com