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HM16 Q&A: How Do You try to Make a Positive Impact on Public Health in Your Daily Work?

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, formerly a hospitalist in Boston, said in a keynote speech that hospitalists have more power than they think to improve public health. The Hospitalist asked HM16 attendees: As a hospitalist, how empowered do you feel in having a positive impact on public health, and how do you try to make such an impact in your daily work?


Dr. Sussman

L. Scott Sussman, MD, associate director of the hospitalist service, Yale-New Haven Hospital, Conn.

“We see patients in a time of crisis, so they’re coming in, they’re scared, they’re sick, and it’s a really teachable moment. Because once we start treating them, they start feeling better … [and] what happens is we start to gain their confidence. We use that as a point where we can say, ‘Let’s talk about your other health issues.’”

Dr. Allaudeen

Dr. Allaudeen

Nazima Allaudeen, MD, hospitalist, director of quality improvement, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Healthcare System, Calif.

“I don’t feel like I do [have an impact] very much, but I think his talk kind of made me feel like we probably can and should do a lot more. … You know how sometimes you’ll get an email that has a standard thing that you can send to your congressperson about something like that? I feel like we were all like, ‘Yes, we should,’ and it would have been a great opportunity. … I feel like we kind of need it spelled out for us, you know? But it’s a good reminder.”

Gilbert Wergowske, MD, TeamHealth hospitalist, Vallejo, Calif.

“We try to arrange the best follow-up you can. That’s a difficult problem. The area that I work in is not an area that really has a lot of options … as far as giving care is concerned. So it’s really important to try to get in touch with the primary care provider directly. If that doesn’t happen, most of our patients will end up using the ED as their primary care provider. It’s important mainly for two reasons: Disjointed care like that is suboptimal; the patients do not get the best benefit from the care. And also it’s very wasteful because tests and procedures tend to be repeated over and over again.”

Cory Ritter, MD, hospitalist, soon to be working at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Houston

“After Dr. Murthy’s talk, I feel much more empowered to call up my local government representatives and express what I feel should be done for public health in our area. Before today, I didn’t think there was much we could do except for supporting the Society of Hospital Medicine because I know they’ve been very engaged in Obamacare and CMS. But otherwise, before today, it wasn’t much on my radar. … On a one-on-one level, you have some impact, but I’ve never really thought much about a larger public health–scale type of impact.”

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