Where Hospitalists Fit in
Will healthcare transparency affect hospitalists? “It’s already impacting hospitalists,” says Dr. Siegal. “Not on pricing, but on quality reporting. The good news is that hospitalists may be the single best-prepared group of physicians [for transparency] because we’re already doing it. The question will be, as it becomes more pervasive, will it be done in a way that is thoughtful, measured, and practical?”
Hospitals are likely to look to their hospitalists to ensure that their quality measurements are competitive. Dr. Siegal explains, “Hospitals looking to improve quality will be most effective in getting results from the physicians whose financial incentives are aligned with theirs.”
However, additional—or more public—quality indicators will not necessarily create a huge source of income for hospital medicine. “The low-hanging fruit won’t be the patients that hospitalists see; it will be elective surgical cases,” predicts Dr. Siegal. “Those are cleanly defined procedures, with bundled payments and predictable outcomes, where a hospital can understand what happens and what’s included. Then they can say, ‘Why do we charge 20% more for a total elective hip [surgery] than the hospital down the road?’ ”
As transparency is rolled out in U.S. hospitals and healthcare systems, hospitalists will look good. “Hospitalists already live in a quality reporting world, more so than other doctors,” says Dr. Siegal. TH
Jane Jerrard writes “Public Policy” for The Hospitalist.