One of the potential benefits of hospital medicine is the tangible opportunity to change healthcare in a meaningful way. Although much of the initial ballyhoo for hospital medicine has been around service-related issues, that is about to change.
Hospitalists have been willing to take on the inpatient responsibilities for primarily outpatient-based internists, family practitioners, and pediatricians. We have been available to admit and manage the patients who present to emergency rooms with acute illnesses and who have no physician of record. We have actively worked with surgeons and subspecialists to co-manage their patient’s medical problems.
In addition, because hospitalists are much more readily available to acutely ill inpatients, because we have more expertise with these medical problems, and because practice generally makes for better performance, hospitalists have been expected to provide more effective and more efficient care.
But that is just the front end of what is creating the enormous energy behind the hospital medicine movement. We are moving into an era of measurement of defined patient outcomes and expectations from insurance companies, Medicare, the business community, and—yes—even our patients. That era will require us to step up and deliver higher quality healthcare.
This is the driver to the pay-for-performance movement and a shift from just rewarding physicians and hospitals for doing the procedure or “visiting” the patient and moving to where those who can demonstrate expertise and performance are rewarded financially and by reputation.
Hospitalists and SHM take this very seriously and are creating alliances and programs to help hospitalists become leaders in the quality and performance arenas.
Walking through the approach that SHM is taking in improving glycemic control in hospitalized patients (see below) will serve as a template for other activities SHM has planned in heart failure, VTE, hospitalized infections, and other illnesses hospitalists see and treat every day.
In a practical way, hospitals and health professionals finally came into the performance era with the first publication of the individual hospital performance results to performance measures developed by JCAHO and co-promoted with CMS in their Hospital Compare Web site. This was promulgated widely, especially at www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov.
Because Hospital Compare was picked up by The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and many local papers, hospitals were soon trying to explain why their performance in heart failure, pneumonia, and heart attack looked like a failing grade. Now that the public is involved, hospitals are scrambling to quickly improve their performance rather than attacking the data.
Looking to the future, SHM is working with JCAHO to develop performance standards for glycemic control for inpatients as a way to assess how our hospitals and physicians are doing in managing diabetes. SHM is also allying with many other key stakeholders to form a steering committee for this project. These standards will take almost three years to develop, test, and implement. So the first reporting of how every hospital is doing in diabetes is most likely a 2008 or 2009 event.
Expecting that many hospitals will improve their performance in diabetic care during 2008 and 2009, SHM is now developing the tools and the training to allow hospitalists to be ready with practical solutions.
In October 2005 SHM convened a Working Group on Inpatient Glycemic Control in Chicago. This meeting under the leadership of Greg Maynard, MD, associate clinical professor of medicine, chief of the division of hospital medicine, University of California at San Diego, brought together nationally recognized diabetologists and endocrinologists with hospitalist leaders, as well as experts in the field of nursing, case management, pharmacy, risk management, and nutrition. The end result is an understanding of what constitutes an ideal management of inpatient diabetes and what role hospitalists can play.