A first for hospitalists: a clinical journal the specialty can call its own

November 2005

Published in the November 2005 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

When the premiere issue of hospital medicine’s scientific journal hits the desks of hospitalists early next year, it will be an event that is long overdue.

That’s the message from Mark Williams, MD, editor-in-chief of the new Journal of Hospital Medicine, professor of medicine and director of the hospital medicine program at Emory Hospitals in Atlanta. Dr. Williams, who is a former president of the Society of Hospital Medicine, the organization that is behind the new publication, says that hospital medicine’s size and growing role in American medicine warrant a journal that hospitalists can call their own.

“Hospitalists are the fastest growing group of physicians in a medical specialty in the United States,” he says, “but there are currently no academic journals focused on this topic.”

In an interview with Today’s Hospitalist, Dr. Williams talks about the niche the new journal will fill. He also provides a sneak peek at what hospitalists will have to look forward to in the new medical journal.

What will make the Journal of Hospital Medicine stand out from other journals read by internists?

We think this will attract a unique body of research focused on hospitalized patients and the physicians who care for them. There may be other journals that are read by hospitalists, but those journals cover all aspects of internal medicine, both inpatient and outpatient, and not just hospital medicine.

This will be a journal for hospitalists to publish their research in and to learn about updates in the field that center exclusively on hospital medicine. That is what makes this journal truly unique.

If you look at other subspecialties “take rheumatology, for example “where there are far fewer physicians, there are two or three journals. Any other established subspecialty has one or more representative journals, even though there may be far fewer physicians in the field than there are hospitalists.

I think hospitalists have been looking for this, almost expecting to have a journal for their specialty. It is time for this rapidly expanding field with 14,000-plus physicians to have its own dedicated journal.

What will hospitalists find in the new journal that they can’t find anywhere else?

One section will focus on information regarding the professional development of hospitalists so they can become leaders in their hospitals. What skills would you need and how best to obtain them? There certainly is research looking at how people lead projects in a hospital and the strategic planning that might be associated with it. We’ll examine the literature and look at how a hospitalist might learn the basics toward accomplishing career goals of becoming a leader in a hospital.

The journal also seeks multidisciplinary research that comes from a mix of pharmacists, nurses and other ancillary staff in hospitals, as well as hospitalists. The idea is to foster research that is focused on how we can deliver the best possible care in a hospital.

What will an average issue look like?

There will be eight to 10 articles in each issue, some about clinical trials that relate to the care of hospitalized patients, the use of new antibiotics or new antibiotic combinations, or the use of new assessment tools. In every issue we will feature an article on quality improvement or something related to professional development.

Have you received any surprising submissions so far?

There is an interesting submission we’re reviewing that looks at a novel method to assess geriatric patients. We’ve also had articles submitted on patient understanding and informed consent.

We plan to publish review articles on clinical cases that demonstrate the thought process of clinicians and incorporate a review. We will also have perspectives by nationally recognized experts in their various medical specialties who will be invited to write articles about how their area of expertise is important to hospitalists or why hospitalists need to pay attention to a new diagnostic or treatment modality.

A personal desire of mine is to have commentaries by patients.

What value would patient commentaries have in the eyes of hospitalists?

As physicians, we spend the vast majority of our time taking care of patients in the hospital and we read articles from research journals, but only rarely do they let patients tell their side of the story. And when it comes down to it, the real experts in the hospital are the patients; they are experiencing it. We have much to learn from them. The idea is to solicit patients’ commentaries on what it was like to be in the hospital “what went wrong and what went right.

Are you looking for reviewers or any other kind of help from hospitalists?

I have five associate editors and 14 to 15 assistant editors from all over the country. We also have an editorial board that includes some major names in American medicine.

Right now we need to build up our reviewer base. If people are interested in becoming a reviewer for the Journal of Hospital Medicine, I encourage them to go to our Web site and register as a reviewer at http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/jhm.

Deborah Gesensway is a freelance writer who reports on U.S. health care from Toronto, Canada.

For more information

Members of the Society of Hospital Medicine will receive the new Journal of Hospital Medicine. The first issue will be published in January/February 2006. More information is online.