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Sharing the power?

March 2011

Published in the March 2011 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

Is a subtle power shift taking place in hospitals, one that is benefiting hospitalists?

I found myself asking that question as I read this month’s cover story, which looks at the growing number of specialists adopting the hospitalist model. (Think surgicalists, laborists, neurohospitalists, etc.) While the presence of the “ist” movement isn’t hot news, the reason for its accelerating growth is interesting.

An obvious factor driving hospitals to bring specialists in-house is the huge amounts of money some specialists are demanding to take ED call. CEOs are realizing that for the same money, they can hire someone who will stay in the hospital full time.

But there’s another reason that some administrators are turning to “ists”: to support the work of their hospitalists. CEOs increasingly realize that hospitalists can do only so much to streamline patient care when they’re working with specialists who have one foot in the hospital.

For years, hospitalists have been told that they need to be good hospital-based citizens. Part of that has always meant keeping specialists like surgeons happy because of the lucrative elective procedures they bring in.

But at least some hospital administrators are starting to take a broader view. They understand that hospitalists also contribute to the bottom line, and that they may need more support from specialists. CEOs may be seeing the relationship between hospitalists and specialists as one of equals, not one in which hospitalists exist to serve specialists.

Is this a major power shift between hospitalists and specialists? That would be an overstatement, particularly because many hospitals have yet to hire their first surgicalist. But as hospitals everywhere look for ways to fine-tune patient care, it could be a sign of things to come.

edoyleEdward Doyle
Editor & Publisher