Bright Lights, Big City

It wasn’t that long ago that SHM was pretty excited to see that the word “hospitalist” had been added to the dictionary, but to have hospitalists mentioned on Oprah Winfrey’s television show, on The Today Show, and in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) all in the same week is a watershed moment. It’s further recognition that HM is part of the fabric of this country and an established specialty in America’s healthcare system.

It all started in March, when SHM President Pat Cawley, MD, was quoted in O, The Oprah Magazine, which has a circulation of more than 2 million. Later that month, Oprah had Dennis Quaid on her show to discuss the overdose of anticoagulant his newborn twins were given at a Los Angeles hospital. The conversation quickly turned to patient safety and performance expectations for hospitalized patients. Dr. Mehmet Oz, the resident medical guru for Oprah’s show, created a list of eight essential steps for hospitalized patients to take in order to have the best and safest hospital experience. No. 7 on this list was “Get to know your hospitalist.” It’s the kind of exposure that drives 10,000 to 20,000 people to go online and discover hospitalists.

That same week, The Today Show featured Geno Merli, MD, chief medical officer at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, an SHM member, and our representative to the Coalition to Prevent DVT ( Dr. Merli discussed deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) prevention, as well as efforts to engage patients and their physicians in this effort. SHM has assumed a leadership role in this 60-group coalition, which is providing DVT awareness to millions of people.

And to top off a banner week, NEJM ran a story and editorial about the rapid growth of HM, based on a study analyzing Medicare data from 1997 to 2006. In “Growth in the Care of Older Patients by Hospitalists in the United States,” by Kuo et al, the main finding was the very rapid growth of HM. The editorial authors noted “the odds that a Medicare patient would be cared for by a hospitalist grew by 29% per year from 1997 through 2006.”

Hundreds of media outlets seized the opportunity to tout the growth of HM and our role in patient safety and performance improvement.

The cherry on the sundae was when other media outlets followed up on the Oprah story, and even more jumped on the NEJM article. Hundreds of media outlets seized the opportunity to tout the growth of HM and our role in patient safety and performance improvement. The reach of these messages, through a national consumer audience and through a prestigious medical journal, should not be underestimated. SHM couldn’t buy that kind of message and deliver it to our patients and their families.

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