Published in the January 2009 issue of Today’s Hospitalist
HOW WILL THE WORLDWIDE economic meltdown affect hospitalists? It’s a question that’s not only the focus of this month’s cover story, but one that’s on the minds of hospitalists everywhere.
For the last few months, the news coming from hospitals has been bleak. Headlines from large and small facilities alike have detailed layoffs, cutbacks and budget deficits. Hospitals are being forced to account for every dollar they spend and justify every investment they make.
The relatively good news, as this month’s cover story points out, is that most experts say that hospitalists will survive these tough times. Americans are going to need hospital care, after all, and most hospitals now accept that hospitalists deliver that care more efficiently than any other specialty. Hospital administrators also understand the other benefits that hospitalists bring, from improving throughput to keeping specialists like surgeons happy.
And because hospital medicine as a specialty is so young, hospitalists may have another edge in dealing with the increased scrutiny that will come from the pressure of shrinking budgets. They’re used to being asked to prove themselves.
It wasn’t so long ago that hospital administrators were fairly skeptical of hospitalist programs and the investment that was needed to get them off the ground. Many of you probably remember the days when you needed to show in advance how a hospitalist program would help boost capacity, improve documentation and reduce length of stay.
This optimism in no way means that hospitalists won’t face some serious challenges in the months ahead. We’re already hearing from hospitalist groups that are feeling squeezed and doing some belt-tightening. But as medical specialties go, it seems like hospital medicine is in a good position to survive the worst financial turmoil this nation has seen in decades. Good luck to everyone.
Editor and Publisher