Hospitalist Program

In the past, when patients were admitted to the hospital, it was customary for the family doctor to visit them in the hospital every day and supervise their care. Nowadays, it is often difficult for the family doctor to leave his or her office and regularly visit patients in the hospital. In response to this changing healthcare environment, Cabell Huntington Hospital has established a hospital medicine program that features physicians who are called "hospitalists."

What is a hospitalist?

Hospitalists are different from other physicians in that they do not have a practice in an office; instead, they dedicate most of their careers to caring for hospitalized patients. Hospitalists are available to care for patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week and spend most of their time admitting, managing, discharging and consulting for hospitalized patients. They 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-discharge care. In doing so, they sharpen their inpatient medicine knowledge and skills through experience.

Why does the hospital have hospitalists?

Research suggests that hospitalists may reduce the length of a patient’s stay, improve the quality of care for specific conditions and lower hospital costs, without harming patient satisfaction. Hospitalists partner with physicians who are not immediately available to address unanticipated changes in the condition of their hospitalized patients. They address changes in a patient’s status, provide patient and family education and counseling and improve patient satisfaction. Hospital-based specialists have long existed in Europe and Canada, and almost all of the leading US hospitals have developed hospital medicine programs.

How do hospitalists enhance patient care?

  • Availability. Since hospitalists practice 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 primary physician makes rounds to get answers.
  • Patient Safety and Quality of Care. Because of their experience, hospitalists are knowledgeable about hospital operations and how to coordinate services provided by different depart­ments. They know how to expedite and improve care within the hospital environment, and they are familiar with all of the key individuals, including medical and surgery consultants, discharge planners, clergy and others.
  • Post-Discharge Planning. Hospitalists can facilitate connections with post-discharge providers, such as home health care, skilled nursing care and specialized rehabilitation.
  • Experience. Because they care for hospitalized patients every day, hospitalists often understand the coordination of care for common acute disorders that a traditional primary care physician may not treat in an office practice. They are able to recognize and diagnose unusual disorders, anticipate problems and rapidly respond to crises or changes in a patient's condition.
  • For Patients without Physicians. In many communities, hospitalists have become the inpatient safety net for America’s uninsured and indigent medical inpatient population. The hospitalist is on duty to oversee and coordinate care for all patients, whether or not they have a family physician.

Does a hospitalist replace my family doctor?

Your family doctor does not change. The hospitalist simply serves as a partner for your doctor, supervising your care while you are hospitalized. Today, the average primary care physician has one or two hospitalized patients per week, versus 10-12 patients 20 years ago. It is often difficult for doctors to leave their office practices to visit patients in the hospital. Working with a hospitalist allows primary care physicians to focus their attention on their office practices, while knowing that their patients in the hospital are receiving the best care possible from specialists trained in that field.

Source: Society of Hospital Medicine

  • Last updated: 05/12/2011
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