In all, the hospitalists in the new consortium care for about 80,000 patients each year.
“Linking these key hospitals, where hospitalists care for so many patients, will make a huge difference in patient safety in southeast Michigan,” said Dr. Saint. “We’ll all now have the advantage of cross-sharing patient safety tactics that work, instead of allowing that knowledge to stay within one hospital or health system. We will also focus on which implementation strategies are likely to work and which ones should be abandoned.”
In addition to its cross-sharing of patient safety information, UMHS will also provide expertise in patient-safety research and statistical analysis that will boost the project’s impact. The hospitalist team hopes to publish its data about safety-enhancing practices that show the most promise―and about how to persuade and remind doctors to use safety-enhancing practices. The team has already begun publishing work related to HELPS. The manuscript describing this unique consortium was recently accepted in the Journal of Patient Safety.
The UMHS hospitalist practice currently cares for nearly half of the adult patients admitted to the internal medicine services of University Hospital. UMHS has also added a team of pediatric hospitalists. In addition to the patient safety project, UMHS hospitalists are pioneering co-management of surgical patients with orthopaedic surgeons.
Drs. Flanders and Saint also anticipate that their nine-hospital consortium will eventually develop into a multicenter collaborative in which clinical studies―both experimental and observational―will be conducted. They expect that hospitalists, working closely with specialist colleagues, will be actively engaged in creating the new knowledge that is increasingly required to care for hospitalized patients. Importantly, this knowledge will come not just from patients admitted to tertiary-care academic medical centers, but also community hospitals, the venue in which the majority of hospitalized patients receive care. Similar to the success of cardiologists and oncologists in establishing regional, national, and international networks of clinical investigators, Drs. Flanders and Saint would be thrilled if HELPS is viewed in a decade as birthing a hospitalist network of clinical research excellence. Given the high level of support that has been provided by the UMHS and the enthusiastic response HELPS has received from each of the participating sites, Saint feels they are well on their way.
Flanders says that more and more, hospitalists will become the linchpins to patient safety improvement. “It would be extremely difficult to coordinate the efforts of the thousands of independent, community-based doctors who spend part of their time caring for inpatients,” he said. “By spearheading this effort through hospitalists, we can change the system from the inside out, and help spread patient safety best practices to other physician specialists, primary care doctors, nurses and every member of the patient care team.”